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Maple Leafs to face Avs, former teammates Raycroft, Tucker

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TSN.ca Staff / The Sports Network
1/29/2009 12:25:19 PM
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(Sports Network) - When the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Colorado Avalanche tonight at the Pepsi Center, they'll be facing a pair of players who used to wear the blue and white in forward Darcy Tucker and goaltender Andrew Raycroft.

Tucker, a member of the Leafs for eight years and a fan-favourite for his gritty play, was bought out of the remaining three years of his contract with Toronto in June of 2008 before signing a 2-year, $4.5 million deal with the Avs.

Almost seven months after departing from the Leafs, the Alberta native doesn't hold back about the feelings brought on by his departure.

"I've always been a guy that's worn his heart on his sleeve and I'm not going to lie to you - it was hard to leave Toronto," said Tucker, who has 11 points for Colorado this season.  "My heart was in the right place when I played there but I'm here in Denver now so I really appreciate the group of guys here."

Tucker faded from popularity with critics when his numbers tailed off in his last season, but he's still proud of his track record in Toronto.

"I can't control what people say or what they think about me," Tucker said.  "I still had 18 goals last year so I don't think it was as bad as everyone portrayed it to be."

Raycroft, meanwhile, is 9-5 with a 2.71 GAA this season for Colorado, and will get the start against his former team.

"I've worked real hard to get back to basics, get my footwork back to where it should have been," said Raycroft, who became a whipping boy in Toronto following consistently sub-par performances.  "I just kind of got sloppy last year, I think, throughout the year.  Part of that's mental and part of that's just doing things right physically."

A visit from the Leafs could be just what the Avalanche need to get their current homestand on track. Colorado has not suffered a home loss to the Leafs in nearly 12 years.

Colorado is just 1-3-0 thus far on a season-long eight-game homestand -- the second-longest stretch in franchise history. The Avalanche resumed the residency on Tuesday, but failed to generate any offense in their first game after the All-Star break, getting blanked by San Jose, 3-0.

Scoring goals hadn't been the problem for Colorado prior to Tuesday. The club had netted 13 goals over the first three games of the stand before getting shut out for the fifth time this season. Overall, it was the Avalanche's fifth loss in their last six games and they fell to 14-11-0 at home.

Raycroft turned in a solid effort between the pipes by stopping 35 shots, but still suffered his fourth straight setback following a personal career-high seven-game win streak. Raycroft, who and matched a Leafs' franchise record with 37 wins in 2006-07, has a 3.11 goals against average over his skid.

Raycroft appeared to have won the No. 1 job from Peter Budaj with his win streak, but hasn't made a case to keep that spot. He is 3-5-1 with a 2.73 GAA in his career against Toronto, while Budaj won his previous and only start against the Maple Leafs by halting 27-of-28 shots faced.

Colorado, last in the Northwest Division with 47 points, saw Ian Laperriere and David Jones both return to the lineup from back ailments on Tuesday, but Jones left in the first period thanks to a shoulder injury that has him questionable for tonight's clash. Jones had missed the last four games, while Laperriere sat out eight straight.

Colorado has won two straight and three of its last four meetings with the Maple Leafs, including a 4-1 road win when the two clubs last met on October 18, 2006. The Avalanche have won three straight at home in the series, having not lost to Toronto in Denver since March 29, 1997, when Colorado played at the McNichols Sports Arena.

Toronto, which is visiting the Pepsi Center for only the second time ever, will look to avoid dropping a season-high fifth straight game for the third time this campaign. The franchise lost five in a row from October 11-21 and November 15-27.

The Maple Leafs' latest consecutive setback came on Tuesday in Minnesota, a 6-1 defeat. Jason Blake had the lone goal for Toronto, while Justin Pogge allowed six goals -- four in the second period -- on 21 shots faced in just his second-career start.

Pogge was assigned to the AHL on Wednesday, meaning Vesa Toskala should return to net tonight. Toskala is 3-3-0 with a tie and 2.56 GAA lifetime against Colorado.

Toronto, which has also lost eight of its last nine overall, is 9-13-3 on the road this year and has dropped six of its last seven as the traveling club.

Darcy Tucker (Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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