GDT: Devils at Maple Leafs (7 p.m., Sportsnet)

GDT: Devils at Maple Leafs (7 p.m., Sportsnet)

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The weekend off gave the Conference a chance to begin catching up to the Leafs, who played 22 games in the first 40 days of the season. Sitting in sixth with 26 points, the Leafs are four points ahead of the 9th-placed Rangers, who still have two games in hand. Tonight’s opponent, the 7th-placed Devils, are one point behind the Leafs with a game in hand, so the Leafs have a chance to hold back one of the teams breathing down their neck.

This was a matchup you had marked down as a toughie a few weeks ago. It’s less so now, at least on paper. Five of the Devils’ six regulation losses have come in the last ten games, along with a pair of OT/Shootout losses, as  they’ve cooled off considerably since their 8-2-2 start. Martin Brodeur is out with back troubles, meaning Johan Hedberg gets the start.  Hedberg has lost his last five starts while allowing 21 goals in the process.  The Leafs also carry the rest advantage, coming off their longest break of the campaign, while Devils are playing in their third city in the last five nights.

The Leafs will hold off another game before reinserting Matt Frattin into the lineup. He’ll return instead on Wednesday against the Senators.

We’ll be looking for a much cleaner defensive performance than what was on display Thursday against the Islanders. James Reimer starts in net.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]