Maple Leafs-Coyotes Preview

The Associated Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Phoenix Coyotes have found some traction after enduring rough stretches.

Seeking its first five-game winning streak in seven years, Toronto pits its rejuvenated offense up against a Phoenix team that is playing much better defensively Monday night in Arizona.

The Maple Leafs (25-20-5) have won four in a row following a four-game slide in which they were outscored 21-7. They've scored 14 goals and have gone 4 for 13 on the power play during the winning streak after scoring as many with the man advantage on 31 chances in their previous 11 contests.

Saturday's 5-3 home win over Montreal gave them a little more separation for the East's top wild-card spot with 55 points. Toronto, which hasn't won five in a row since Jan. 27-Feb. 6, 2007, is four points behind the Canadiens for third place in the Atlantic Division.

"That was a statement game for this team," said Nazem Kadri, who recorded two assists. "It's the Montreal Canadiens. They're one of the better teams in the conference and obviously they're ahead of us in the division, as well. The rivalry speaks for itself. We wanted to come out here, home ice, and give these fans something to cheer about."

It marked the sixth multi-point game for Kadri, who has taken some criticism in a generally disappointing individual season. He had 11 multi-point performances last season in 48 games - two more than he's played in 2013-14. He's a minus-10 with 29 points after recording a plus-15 rating and 44 points last season.

"I wanted to come out and have a big game," Kadri said. "Obviously the magnitude of this game was huge. For us to chase that top spot in the division is still a realistic goal for us."

Phoenix (23-16-9), which had won six straight in the series prior to a 2-1 shootout loss at Toronto on Dec. 19, has won back-to-back games after dropping four in a row.

Defenseman Zbynek Michalek returned Saturday after missing 13 games with a hip injury to help the Coyotes beat New Jersey 3-2. Phoenix has consecutive wins for the first time since Dec. 10-12, and has yielded four total goals in its last three games after giving up four or more goals four times in dropping four of its previous five contests.

Michalek leads the Coyotes, who are four points behind Minnesota and Vancouver in the wild-card chase, with a plus-10 rating. Phoenix is 6-10-6 without him this season compared to a 17-6-3 mark with him.

Mike Smith was strong in goal Saturday with 33 saves, two nights after stopping 29 shots in his first shutout of the season against the Canucks. Phoenix also found the back of the net on the power play for the seventh straight game with Martin Hanzal scoring his 14th of the season in the second period.

"If you're going to win in this league, you need that (gritty play) every night," said Dave Tippett, who earned his 450th career victory. "It was nice to see us come through with a couple wins like that."

Hanzal has four goals and four assists in six career games against the Maple Leafs, while Mike Ribeiro has 11 points in his last nine matchups.

Jonathan Bernier has stopped 65 of 67 shots with one shutout in two career starts versus Phoenix.

The Coyotes have won seven of 10 meetings in Arizona.

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