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Maple Leafs-Canadiens Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are optimistic after Phil Kessel snapped a lengthy goal drought and ended another for the team's power play.
The Maple Leafs' recent results in Montreal could provide another reason for encouragement.
Kessel will try to contribute again as Toronto seeks to sweep a three-game trip with its fifth win in the past six visits to the rival Canadiens on Saturday night.
Kessel's 136 goals over the last four-plus seasons put him among the league's top 10, but he had all kinds of trouble increasing that total through the first 10 games this year. He finally got his first of the season with the game-winner late in the third period in a 3-2 victory at Winnipeg on Thursday.
"You just hope that he can use this as a building block," coach Randy Carlyle said. "Goal scorers have streaks, and we hope this is the start of a streak."
The goal also snapped Toronto's 0-for-14 drought on the power play to start this month, and lifted the Maple Leafs (6-5-0) to their third consecutive road win.
"We've got to feel fortunate that our power play finally came through and our top goal scorer finally hit the back of the net," Carlyle said. "That's a great sign for us."
Toronto, 5-1-0 away from home this season, has a pair of one-goal wins on its current trip, and it beat its next opponent by that same margin in the season opener.
Kessel assisted on both of his team's goals - from Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak - in that 2-1 victory at Montreal on Jan. 19. The Maple Leafs went 2 for 5 on the man advantage while the Canadiens also scored their lone goal, Brian Gionta's third-period tally, on the power play.
Kessel has three goals and five assists while helping Toronto to a 4-1-0 mark in its last five games at Montreal.
The Canadiens (6-3-1) will try to limit the winger and keep from adding to their first losing streak of the season. After ending a run of five consecutive home victories with Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Boston, Montreal suffered a heart-breaking 5-4 shootout defeat in Buffalo the next night.
The Sabres rallied from two goals down in the final period and scored the tying goal with 2 seconds left in regulation.
"This was one we obviously wanted to win, but again we're going to have to turn the page, learn from our mistakes and look towards the next game," center Tomas Plekanec told the Canadiens' official website.
Carey Price, boasting a 1.74 goals-against average, figures to be back in net Saturday after Peter Budaj gave him a night off.
Plekanec scored twice Thursday, giving him a team-best six goals, and P.K. Subban extended his point streak to four games - all of his appearances since ending his holdout - with his second goal.
The defenseman, though, has no goals and three assists in 12 career games against Toronto. Plekanec has eight points in his past nine in the series.
Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who has no points in his last 10 games overall, might have an opportunity to end his offensive woes. He has two goals and four assists during a five-game point streak in Montreal.
Mikhail Grabovski, without a point in his last six contests, has three goals and three assists in his last four at the Bell Centre.
Updated February 8, 2013