Shut down in their last two games, the Toronto Maple Leafs hope a visit from rival Ottawa on Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET) will help boost a stagnant offence.
Toronto defeated the Senators 5-1 on Oct. 9, extending its winning streak against Ottawa to five games dating back to Dec. 14, 2009.
At practice on Monday, Ron Wilson’s squad was going back to basics in an attempt to jumpstart the offence.
For a team relying on only one legitimate scorer, the rest of the forward group is looking to make life difficult for the opposition’s goaltenders, something they were unable to do against Boston’s Tim Thomas and Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist in concestuve 2-0 losses, respectively.
“There are teams that have good net-front presence and we’ve studied what their players do,” Wilson told reporters after practice. “Our players, [Wednesday] morning, we watched a lot of it and tried to get better net-front presence.”
Luca Caputi, called up a week ago to replace the injured Colby Armstrong, was placed on the Leafs’ top line alongside Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel.
At, 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Caputi’s size should allow him to withstand any physical play in front of the net, and the Toronto native is well aware of what his responsibilities are on team’s No. 1 unit.
“Just go to the net and bang home Phil’s garbage,” Caputi told the Toronto Star. “We need to get people in front of the net so it’s harder for the goalie to see the puck.”
The Leafs should expect a stiffer challenge from the Senators than what they faced earlier in the season.
Last week, Ottawa won consecutive games for the first time this season, but was blanked 4-0 against Thomas and the Bruins on Saturday.
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson left practice with a lower-body injury on Monday, but the 37-year-old is expected to suit up for Tuesday night’s game.
Alfredsson leads the Senators in scoring with 12 points in 11 games.
Jason Spezza returned from a groin injury on Saturday, and is expected to centre Alex Kovalev and Peter Regin for a second straight game.
“It was nice to get a chance to play with Kovie and Petey in practice,” Spezza told the Ottawa Sun. “We talked a little bit on the ice, figured out some tendencies we want to do. Last game was still a little bit of jitters, and getting back into it.
“Now I’m feeling that comfortable on the blades, after being off a bit. I anticipate us having a better game [Tuesday].”