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Maple Leafs-Stars Preview

By JEFF MEZYDLO

STATS Senior Writer

(AP) -- Led by star forward Phil Kessel, the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to surge.

Kessel and the visiting Maple Leafs will try for a seventh straight victory Thursday night against the Dallas Stars.

Toronto (27-20-5) was outscored 21-7 during a four-game skid Jan. 4-10, but has since posted a 25-15 goal advantage during its six-game win streak - its longest since the 2005-06 season. The Maple Leafs haven't won seven in a row since an eight-game run Nov. 22-Dec. 6, 2003.

"There's a lot more life in the room," defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "We've got a confidence in our dressing room that we feel good about ourselves."

Kessel has led the charge with six goals and eight assists during a seven-game point streak. Five of those goals have come in the last four games, including two in a 5-2 win at Colorado on Tuesday.

"With Phil, if he continues to get chances, he's got a history behind him and he knows how to score goals," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle, whose team has matched a season high with three consecutive road wins.

Among the NHL leaders with 26 goals and 26 assists, Kessel would rather focus on helping his team succeed.

"We're winning, that's the most important thing," he told the NHL's official website. "We're on a pretty good roll right now."

Kessel combined with linemates James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak for three goals and three assists Tuesday.

Bozak has missed 24 games due to hamstring and oblique injuries, but has six goals and 13 assists in the last 16 he's played.

Van Riemsdyk has six goals and six assists in his past 13 contests.

Teammate Nazem Kadri has two goals and four assists in four games, and scored twice on assists from Kessel during a 3-2 overtime home victory over Dallas (22-20-8) on Dec. 5. The Maple Leafs have won three straight in the series.

Kari Lehtonen, who made 21 saves at Toronto last month, had a 3.51 goals-against average while losing seven of eight starts before facing 18 shots in Dallas' 4-0 win over Minnesota on Tuesday.

Erik Cole and Ray Whitney scored power-play goals, and Alex Goligoski added two assists as the Stars snapped an 0-2-1 slide and won for the second time in 11 contests.

"As much as we've been losing, we have to come with an excited attitude," forward Vernon Fiddler told the Stars' official website. "I think that's the only thing that really gets you out of these skids is taking (something) positive out of games."

Dallas, which had been held to two or fewer goals in six of the previous seven games, ranks near the bottom of the league at 14.4 percent on the power play. However, it's 6 for 19 in the last five contests.

"We just need to play the same way every night, and (coach Lindy Ruff has) put together a pretty good system," said forward Jordie Benn, who scored on a penalty shot Tuesday. "If we play the way we can, hopefully we can go on a streak here."

Cole, who scored at Toronto last month, has three goals in five games.

Updated January 22, 2014

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