Round Three in Battle of Ontario

Dino MoriAnalyst IDecember 14, 2009

TORONTO - DECEMBER 7:  Phil Kessel #81and  Matt Stajan #14 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate goal during action against the Atlanta Thrashers December 7, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

It's the third installment in the Battle of Ontario, as the Senators travel to the Air Canada Centre to meet the Maple Leafs on Monday night

Ottawa arrives with aspirations on improving to 3-0 against Toronto this season, after posting one-goal victories on Oct. 6, 2-1 at the ACC, and 3-2 on Nov. 17 at ScotiaBank Place. 

Currently, the Senators sit seven points ahead of the Maple Leafs in the Northeast division with one game in hand.  Toronto, however, is the hotter of the two combatants.  The Leafs are 7-3 in their last 10, while the Sens are 4-5-1.

Both teams are coming off impressive wins in their last game. 

Toronto rallied from an early two-goal deficit at home against Washington, upending Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, 6-3. Forwards Phil Kessel and Matt Stajan each contributed three points in the win, while linemate Alexei Ponikarovsky had a goal and a helper.

Ottawa, meanwhile, rode the back of its most dynamic offensive threat, Alexei Kovalev, in their game against Carolina. Kovalev had the hat-trick against the Hurricanes en route to a 4-2 win.  He also notched his 400th career goal in that game, becoming the 82nd person in NHL history to accomplish this milestone.

Prior to Saturday's match against the 'Canes, Kovalev was mired in a season long slump, notching just four goals in 27 games.  Not what Senator fans envisioned when they signed the 36 year old, enigmatic Russian to a free-agent contract last summer. Kovalev spent the past four seasons with Montreal, before arriving in Ottawa.

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Toronto appears to be coming out of its early season slumber on home ice, posting three consecutive wins at the Hanger.  This is welcome news for Leaf fans, who watched its club muster only two wins in their first 12 on ACC ice.  Toronto (11-14-7) has also climbed back into the playoff race, trailing eight place Montreal by just four points.

Quite an accomplishment when you consider the Maple Leafs began the year losers of 12 of its first 13 outings.  Kudos to coach Ron Wilson and his coaching staff for slowing righting the ship.

Expect Vesa Toskala to get the call in goal for the Maple Leafs, as Joey McDonald serves as the backup.  Jonas Gustavsson, Toronto's other netminder, continues to heal following a second surgery to control an elevating heart rate.  He is expected to return later in the week.

Brian Elliot will be between the pipes for the Senators as Pascal Leclaire, the team's number one starter, remains out of the lineup with a fractured jaw.

Puck drops at 7:07 PM.