MAPLE LEAFS (23-15-9) at STARS (20-20-10)
8:30 pm (SNO)
The Toronto Maple Leafs open their post All Star game schedule with a visit to Dallas to take on the Stars.
Dallas sits 6th in Central Division, 3 points out of a Wild Card Spot. They have been a disappointment so far with the star power that team has. Much more was expected from this group.
They have though been besieged with injuries. 4 regulars will be out of the lineup for Dallas. Johnny Oduya, Mattias Janmark, Ales Hemsky and Jamie Oleksiak are all out with long term injuries and there’s no timetable yet for their return. Radek Faksa though could return tonight after being out the last few with a Lower Body Injury.
Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza have both missed time. Tyler Seguin missed a lot of training camp after getting hurt at the World Cup. Patrick Sharp is just getting back into the lineup now. Couple this with some underwhelming performances and subpar goaltending and its a bad formula.
Both Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen have both been below average. They’re in the bottom 3 for goals against per game and have the League’s worst PK. That is not a good thing against the Leafs who own one of the league’s best powerplays, including the best on the road.
The Stars PP oddly sits 20th overall, despite all the firepower they have. As mentioned, there’s been some below average performances from this group. John Klingberg has not played well. He was even a scratch earlier in the season. He almost won the Norris Trophy last year. Both Seguin and Benn sit in the top 25 in league scoring, but both to a man will tell you that they have not played well whatsoever. At least not at their highest level.
It must be a head scratcher for coach Lindy Ruff as the Stars were 2nd overall last season in the NHL. Now, they have 32 games to fight and scratch for a playoff spot.
Dallas is 4-8-4 vs the Eastern Conference this season and are 4-5-3 since the turn of the year. The break was likely a welcome one.
As for the Leafs, they’ve been solid in January with a 7-3-2 record. They have a 7-6-5 record vs the Western Conference. The key to the Leafs may likely be, avoid the shootout. They are a league worst 1-6 in the skills competition.
The only question going in to this game is whether or not star blueliner Morgan Reilly will get back into the lineup. Reilly has been out with an ankle injury since the game vs the Sabres and has missed the last 5 games. The team went 2-2-1 in that time, not bad for a team that already needs a fairly big upgrade to their defence even with Reilly.
Fredrik Andersen has been on a bit of a roll for the Leafs and thankfully he got another lengthy break as he’s going to need to get as much rest as he can to be fresh for the team down the stretch. Andersen is coming off back-to-back shutouts and is looking to continue his hot play as he faces the Stars. He has a career 3-2 record with a .919 save percentage against Dallas.
Coach Mike Babcock will probably look to get the Nazem Kadri line out against the Seguin line. Though being on the road, getting that matchup will be tough. Dallas has been playing Cody Eakin with Jamie Benn and they may go up against the Auston Matthews unit.
Despite the lengthy break, hopefully the Leafs will have energy and legs going into this game. If they are pressing the attack, the Stars may have a tough time keeping up. The Leafs should try to take advantage of the Stars young D, who may play 3 rookies if Julius Honka is in the lineup. He was just called up from the Texas Stars. He’d join Stephen Johns and Esa Lindell on the backend.
This is the second game of five straight on the road for the Leafs. They’ve been very good on the road the last couple months and are looking to continue that trend, starting tonight.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Komarov — Kadri — Nylander
Hyman — Matthews — Brown
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Martin — Gauthier — Soshnikov
Marincin — Zaitsev
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak
Benn — Eakin — Eaves
Roussel — Spezza — Seguin
Shore — Faksa — Sharp
Korpikoski — Cracknell — Ritchie
Lindell — Klingberg
Hamhuis — Honka
Benn — Johns
Mike Babcock — Practice — 01/30/2017