Red-hot Avs visit undefeated Leafs
Sunday, 10.16.2011 / 3:28 PM
NHL.comAVALANCHE (4-1-0) at MAPLE LEAFS (3-0-0)
: VERSUS (HD), RIS (HD), SNET-O
: This is the lone meeting this season between these cross-conference clubs. The Maple Leafs took last season's contest by a 4-3 decision in Denver thanks to a game-winning goal by Phil Kessel. Toronto hasn't won a home game against Colorado since March 20, 2004.
: While only a handful of games are in the books on the young season, the Avs and Leafs are both looking like legitimate competitors in their respective conferences. A fourth straight win for Toronto would match the winning streak it put together to start the 2010-11 season. The Avalanche will attempt to extend their current road winning streak to five games after dropping the season-opener at home to Detroit.
: Colorado appears road ready this season with a perfect 4-0-0 record away from Pepsi Center. The Avs' five-game road trip began last Monday with an impressive 1-0 win over the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and the solid skating, defense and goaltending continued through this past Saturday with a back-and-forth affair against Montreal that ended in Colorado earning the 6-5 win in the shootout.
Goalie Semyon Varlamov
continued his strong play between the pipes Saturday, turning aside 38 Canadiens shots in regulation as well as both shootout attempts.
"He gave us a chance to win. He made some big saves," Avs coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post following the game.
: Toronto has sprinted out the gates this season riding a three-game winning streak, which is exactly how it kicked off the 2010-11 season. However, after the Leafs extended their winning streak to four games on Oct. 15, 2010, they then went winless in 11 out of the next 12 games. But if right wing Phil Kessel continues at his current torrid scoring pace, it will be hard to imagine Toronto hitting the same late-October/early-November rough patch this time around.
Kessel notched his second multi-point effort of the season with a goal and two assists to help the Leafs to a 3-2 victory over Calgary on Saturday. The perennial All-Star is tied with the New York Islanders' John Tavares and Nashville's David Legwand with eight points this season.
"They're just going in," Kessel told the Canadian Press on Saturday. "I have some great linemates and they gave me the puck and we're just clicking."
: Varlamov has won three straight games for Colorado and leads the NHL with 135 saves as of Sunday... Kessel is in the midst of a three-game scoring streaking for Toronto, totaling five goals and three assists to open the season.
: For Colorado, forwards Mark Olver
(head) and Brandon Yip
(arm) are on injured reserve ...Forward Tim Connolly (upper-body injury) remains sidelined for Toronto, while forward Nazem Kadri (knee) is set to return to game action, although he has not cracked the Leafs' lineup yet.
: A win Monday would mark the first time that the Avs won their first five road games of the season. Colorado was unbeaten over its first seven road games to start the 2000-01 season, but it had two road ties to begin that season and then followed with five striaght road wins.
: The Leafs are being cautiously optimistic, knowing that the strong start they have experienced thus far is no guarantee that things will remain positive for the rest of the year.
"To get off to this start, it's huge for us," Leafs goalie James Reimer told the Canadian Press on Saturday. "Hopefully we can keep it rolling, stay confident and keep improving in our game. And hopefully when it's all said and done we'll have had a pretty good season."