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Sutter praises Leafs: 'They're the best team in the league right now'

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter was highly complimentary of the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of Saturday's matchup between the two Canadian clubs.

"Toronto is on a really good roll, back-to-back shutouts, points in 13 straight," Sutter said. "Based on that, they're the best team in the league right now."

The Maple Leafs got off to a bumpy start to the campaign, capped by a disastrous 0-2-2 West Coast road trip. However, Toronto is 13-1-4 since the calendar flipped to November. The team's .833 points percentage in that time is second only to the New Jersey Devils' .861 mark.

On the season, the Leafs rank third in the league in points percentage (.714) behind the Devils (.796) and Boston Bruins (.827).

Sutter believes the Maple Leafs' top players are setting the tone for the rest of the team.

"With Toronto, and I saw it last year, too, when we played them early there. Their top players - Matthews, Marner, and Tavares - those guys have taken another whole level in terms of their leadership," he said. "They're by-example-type players. It's so evident when you watch them."

While Auston Matthews isn't quite matching the pace from his Hart Trophy-winning campaign last season, Toronto's "Core 4" is thriving. Mitch Marner is riding a franchise-best 21-game point streak, William Nylander is on pace for a career year, and captain John Tavares has remained a near-point-per-game player.

The Flames, meanwhile, are sputtering. Despite some lofty preseason expectations after one of the busiest offseasons in team history, Calgary is fighting for its playoff life. Sutter said it's up to the star players to right the ship.

"The big thing is, our top players have to take a step up here," Sutter said. "It's really been missing on the road this year. We've won three games on the road ... It tells you that our best players are not playing up to what we need them to do to get points."

Calgary fell 3-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, dropping its road record to 3-6-2.

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