Leafs' Reimer excited about 1st start in Montreal

Toronto and Montreal continue their competitive season series Thursday night at Bell Centre, a venue that hasn't been kind to the Maple Leafs so far this season.

Toronto and Montreal continue their competitive season series Thursday night at Bell Centre, a venue that hasn't been kind to the Maple Leafs this season.

The teams have combined for just 14 goals in their four meetings this season, a total that includes an empty-net goal.

The games have all been won by the home team, and the Maple Leafs haven't even scored at Bell Centre in their two previous trips this season, as Montreal goalie Carey Price has stopped all 57 shots he has faced.

Despite that success, indications Thursday afternoon were that the Habs would opt to start backup Alex Auld.

Perhaps a new goaltender can give Toronto's skaters the confidence they need to break that drought.

Surprising rookie Leafs goalie James Reimer will mark his first NHL start in the hockey mecca of Montreal.

"It kind of feels like a playoff game," Reimer said Wednesday after practice. "It's exciting to be a part of that rivalry, to play in that kind of an atmosphere, and it'll be an experience."

The Leafs are 3-0-1 in their last four games after nipping the New York Islanders 2-1 on Phil Kessel's late goal.

Toronto can move to within five points of a playoff spot with a win on Thursday (Carolina, four points ahead in eighth spot, has more wins).

Coach Ron Wilson poured some cold water on the playoff talk on Wednesday, saying the odds weren't in Toronto's favour.

Montreal is getting a brief home turn after returning from Western Canada, a two-game stand before they depart for the southeastern U.S.

The Habs salvaged some points on the three-game trip with a 3-2 victory over Vancouver on Tuesday. Montreal roared out to a two-goal lead and then hung on dearly, with Price holding the fort during a 27-9 shot disadvantage over the final 40 minutes.

David Desharnais played just five minutes, but made the most of them with a goal, while captain Brian Gionta and Andrei Kostitsyn also scored for Montreal (32-22-7).

Lars Eller, who has struggled in his first full NHL season, got his second assist in three games.

Montreal is four points behind Boston for the Northeast Division lead, although the Bruins will have two games in hand by the end of Thursday.

The clubs are meeting for the final time before Monday's trade deadline.

Toronto's roster has already undergone a transformation, with veterans Francois Beauchemin, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kaberle all departing in trades this month.

Montreal isn't expected to make drastic changes, although they know too well from past experience that you can never have enough experienced defencemen for a playoff run.

The sixth meeting between the clubs will take place on the final Saturday of the regular season, April 7.

As for the immediate future, Toronto hosts Pittsburgh and Montreal receives a visit from Carolina as part of Hockey Night in Canada coverage on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET).