Dallas Stars @ Toronto Maple Leafs: Preview

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Greetings Stars fans! The Dallas Stars look to get back on track as they head to Toronto, Ontario to take on the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre. This is the first of two meetings between the clubs this year, and the season series will close in three weeks when the Leafs visit Dallas on December 23. Puck drop is at 6:30 p.m. CST, and the game can be seen on Fox Sports SW-Plus.

Records and Scores

The Dallas Stars (9-10-5) are still looking for semblance of consistency as they flounder in the basement of the Western Conference. Their last eight results are as follows: three losses, followed by three wins, followed by two losses. The most recent game was a 5-2 loss in Colorado that saw the Stars’ backup goalie Anders Lindback acquire his fifth loss in as many tries. With a goals allowed/game ranking of 29th in the league (3.46), the club must find a way to stop the bleeding if they want to win on a nightly basis.

The Toronto Maple Leafs (12-8-3) sit at fifth in the Atlantic Division and have won three of their last four, with the one blemish being a 4-3 loss at Pittsburgh. They rank third in the league with 3.30 goals per game, and have soundly beaten quality clubs such as the Bruins, Lightning, and Red Wings in the last month. Phil Kessel leads the team in scoring with 25 points, good enough for eighth in the NHL.

Storylines

Stars Need Big Games From Their Big Three

At this point, it has to be said without argument: the Stars’ defense is miserable. Too many shots allowed, too many turnovers, and inconsistent goaltending have left the Stars wondering why so many folks picked them to improve on their 2013-14 campaign. Assuming that the team will continue to give up goals on a nightly basis, the forward group is left with the task of scoring copious amounts of goals to cover up. Thankfully, it’s something that is reasonably possible as Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Jason Spezza have accumulated a combined 73 points thus far this season. The strategy is pathetically elementary: give up some goals, but score even more. Add in rookie John Klingberg’s deft touch with the puck, and maybe the team can start to win some of those western-style shootouts.

Maple Leafs Must Be Knocked Off-Balance

The Toronto Maple Leafs feature one of the most balanced special teams units in the league. They rank a sturdy 11th league-wide in both power play (21.2%) and penalty kill percentage (83.5%). In their last eight games, they’ve won every game in which they’ve scored either a power play or short-handed goal, and lost every one in which they haven’t. If you can minimize their time on the man advantage, you stand a real chance at coming away with two points.

Injury Report

For the Stars, Alex Goligoski is questionable with a lower-body injury, and Valeri Nichushkin remains on the IR with a hip pointer.

For the Maple Leafs, Leo Komarov is questionable with concussion symptoms, and Roman Polak is out with a knee injury.

Projected Line Combinations

Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Ales Hemsky

Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves

Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen

Trevor Daley – Jason Demers

Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg

Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Toronto Maple Leafs

James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – Mike Santorelli

Daniel Winnik – Peter Holland – David Clarkson

David Booth – Trevor Smith – Richard Panik

Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson

Jake Gardiner – Korbinian Holzer

Morgan Rielly – Stephane Robidas

Jonathan Bernier

Prediction

I see the Stars pulling out a gritty win, as they are inexplicably a better team on the road. 4-3 Stars in regulation, after putting up 40 shots on net.

Stay tuned to Blackout Dallas for more updates and postgame coverage!