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Maple Leafs-Canadiens Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to the same start through six games as they were in 2010-11, but they're hoping the rest of this season offers few similarities.
Another victory over their struggling rivals would be a step in the right direction.
Toronto continues its four-game road trip Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens, who are trying to avoid a fifth straight loss.
The Maple Leafs (4-1-1) won their first four games of 2010-11, then went 1-8-3 over the next 12 on their way to missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
Toronto began its road trip with a 6-2 loss in Boston on Thursday, allowing six straight goals between Dave Steckel's first-period tally and Mikhail Grabovski's in the third.
"It would have been nice to start off the road trip right, but we're not going to dwell on it," defenseman Luke Schenn said of the team's first regulation loss.
Phil Kessel, who leads the league with 12 points and is tied for the lead with seven goals, was held without a point for the first time in 16 games dating to March 17, but he has a good chance to get back on track Saturday. He has four goals and three assists in his last five games versus Montreal.
Kessel assisted on Dion Phaneuf's third-period goal in Toronto's 2-0 season-opening victory over the Canadiens on Oct. 6.
Toronto is 5-2-1 in its last eight road meetings against Montreal, which has scored one goal or fewer in four of its six games.
The Canadiens (1-4-1) did not lose four straight all of last season, and they haven't dropped five in a row since Dec. 10-17, 2009. They fell 3-1 to Pittsburgh on Thursday, getting their lone goal from Brian Gionta with less than two minutes remaining.
"It's got nothing to do with the bounces, it's the way we're playing," Gionta told the team's official website. "We're just not supporting each other and we're getting away from what we want to do as a team. It's tough to win games that way."
While Toronto seems eager to move past its most recent loss, Montreal acknowledges it has some issues to resolve.
"We have to wake up because it's becoming embarrassing," winger Mathieu Darche said. "It keeps happening that we're two or three guys on the ice that are on the same page, but we need to be five."
Goaltender Carey Price, who's 3-1-0 with a 0.76 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last four starts versus Toronto, is trying to take a more positive approach.
"We can only get better from here. Dwelling on it is just going to make things worse, so the only thing we can do is put it behind us and get focused for Saturday night's game," said Price, who has a 3.46 GAA during the four-game skid.
Price made 16 saves in the season-opening loss to the Maple Leafs, while James Reimer made 32 saves to earn his fourth career shutout.
Reimer is 2-1-0 with a 2.67 GAA in three starts against the Canadiens, while backup Jonas Gustavsson - who made his first start of the season against the Bruins - is 2-1-1 with a 2.06 GAA versus Montreal.
Updated October 21, 2011