Avalanche-Maple Leafs Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- A strong start is not a new experience for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Their next opponent, meanwhile, is in the midst of its best beginning in 11 seasons.
The Colorado Avalanche will try to add to their early success by completing a sweep of a five-game road trip and handing the Maple Leafs their first loss of the season Monday night.
Toronto (3-0-0) started 4-0 in 2010-11 but missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year. The Maple Leafs took another step toward ending that drought by rallying for a 3-2 win over Calgary on Saturday in the third of five straight home games to open this season.
"To get off to this start, it's huge for us," goaltender James Reimer said. "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."
Phil Kessel had two goals and an assist Saturday after his team fell behind 2-0 in the first 5:40. He recorded his third career hat trick and an assist in the Leafs' previous game Oct. 8 against Ottawa.
"The (shots are) just going in," he said. "I have some great linemates ... and we're just clicking."
Colorado (4-1-0) will try to keep Kessel from continuing his hot streak while improving on its best start since going 9-0 with two ties to begin the 2000-01 season.
To earn their latest win - a 6-5 shootout victory over Montreal - the Avalanche had to endure a wild game Saturday. David Jones' second goal of the second period gave his team a 4-3 lead after two, but Colorado fell behind in the third before Kyle Quincey tied it with 4:03 remaining in regulation.
"We've got to ride it when we're hot," forward Milan Hejduk said. "We want to go 5-0 on this road trip. That would be huge."
The Avalanche are riding their longest winning streak since a six-game run Dec. 10-19. They lost 38 of 49 after that to finish with the second-fewest points in the NHL (68).
Colorado is seeking its first five-game road win streak since taking six in a row Jan. 19-March 11, 2002, and a third straight victory at the Air Canada Centre as it makes its first visit there in two years.
Toronto, however, won the most recent matchup 4-3 on March 24 in Denver as Nikolai Kulemin scored twice and Kessel had a key power-play goal in the third period. Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson matched a career high with three assists.
The Avalanche might give veteran goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere a chance to face his former team. Anaheim traded Giguere to Toronto on Jan. 31, 2010, and he left the Leafs to sign a two-year deal with Colorado this offseason.
Giguere stopped 15 shots in his only appearance this season, a 7-1 win over Ottawa on Thursday. The Avalanche's other goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, is 1-0-1 with a 2.40 goals-against average in two starts versus the Leafs but has not faced them since Nov. 21, 2009.
Reimer's only matchup with Colorado was the victory in March. Backup Jonas Gustavsson has yet to see the ice this season and has never faced the Avalanche.
Updated October 16, 2011