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Maple Leafs-Avalanche Preview

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have rebounded from a recent skid by pouring in plenty of goals during a winning streak that's on the verge of becoming the team's longest in more than eight years.

Toronto had trouble getting the puck past Semyon Varlamov the first time it faced the Colorado Avalanche, a defeat it will look to avenge Tuesday night in Denver.

The Maple Leafs (26-20-5) scored seven times during a four-game losing streak from Jan. 4-10, but they've followed that skid by netting 18 non-shootout goals during their current five-game run.

Phil Kessel, Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri each had a goal and an assist in Monday's 4-2 victory at Phoenix. Kessel has four goals and eight assists during a six-game point streak.

''We feel this group can continue to grow and play to a higher level - enough talking about it,'' coach Randy Carlyle said. ''Actions speaks louder than words, and we have to continue to challenge this group to play better and become a playoff team.''

Jonathan Bernier, who stopped 31 shots in Toronto's 2-1 loss to Colorado on Nov. 3, made 39 saves to win his fourth straight start. Despite his current hot stretch, the Leafs may decide to start James Reimer in net Tuesday in the second of a back-to-back set.

Toronto, which has scored first four times during its streak, hasn't won six straight since Dec. 22, 2005-Jan. 2, 2006.

''It feel great,'' Bernier said. ''We know if we score the first goal in this league, you have a good chance to win. That's our main focus.''

Varlamov made 27 saves in the first meeting with Toronto, and he'll likely be back in net for this matchup after stopping 27 shots in Saturday's 5-4 win over Nashville.

He's 11-0-5 with a 2.23 goals-against average over his last 16 starts, tying the team record for most consecutive games without a regulation defeat.

Colorado (31-12-5) will be seeking a fifth straight victory after Nick Holden had two goals and an assist against the Predators. Matt Duchene, Jan Hejda and captain Gabriel Landeskog had one goal apiece.

''I think every game someone else is stepping up,'' Holden said. ''We've gone through a lot of injuries. It's showed the adversity of our team here to battle through it. Every night is a different guy, and tonight it was luckily me.''

P.A. Parenteau, who scored in the first meeting with Toronto, is surprisingly expected to play Tuesday for the first time since suffering a knee injury Dec. 29. He wasn't supposed to return for at least another two weeks.

"Quicker, but still three to four weeks it was 1/8out of the lineup 3/8. It's nice to be back," Parenteau told the league's official website. "It was a kind of painful three weeks, not very fun. I'm looking forward to doing what I'm doing."

The Avalanche also got center Paul Stastny back Saturday after he missed the previous two contests with a leg injury.

Stastny, along with rookie Nathan MacKinnon and center John Mitchell, finished with two assists against Nashville as Colorado jumped out to a three-goal lead in the first period.

Nashville scored the game's last three goals, but that doesn't worry coach Patrick Roy.

''It's not important how the game ends,'' Roy said. ''It's the result at the end. We won the game.''

Varlamov is 2-0-1 with a 1.95 GAA in three career starts against the Maple Leafs. Reimer is 1-0-1 with a 2.97 GAA in two starts versus Colorado.

Tagged: Avalanche, Maple Leafs, Jan Hejda, Semyon Varlamov

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