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Stars @ Leafs Game Preview: Texas Forever?

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The red-hot Dallas Stars come into Toronto to visit a Leafs team that is anything but.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Air Canada Centre; Toronto, ON

7:30 p.m. ET; SN-Ontario

Opposing SBN Perspective: Defending Big D

Matchup

The Leafs have had, well, a pretty tough run to say the least. They have lost four straight in regulation, and are 0-5-1 since their lone win against Columbus on Oct. 16. In that time, they've scored 9 goals while allowing 19, which averages to a dismal 1.5 GF/G and 3.16 GA/G. Neither goalie has been good, as the team has a combined SV% of .892. If there's one sign of optimism, it's that Leafs goaltending at 5v5 is a much more respectable .912; still 22nd in the league, but better. This team has just been nothing short of atrocious on special teams.

It won't get much easier for the Leafs. Tonight's opponent, the Dallas Stars, have come out of the gate red-hot, with a record of 9-2-0 and winners of three straight. Their 40 goals and 3.64 GF/G are near the top of the NHL offensively. Leading the charge are Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, first and second in league scoring, respectively. The two play on a line together with Stars offseason acquisition Patrick Sharp.  Put this in perspective: Benn, Seguin, and Sharp have combined for 18 goals. The Leafs, as a team, have 20. Yeah.

Did I forget to mention that Dallas has the 3rd ranked PP at 26.3%? And the Leafs PK continues to suck? This could get really ugly, really quickly.

Probable Leafs Lines

Some line changes at Monday practice, per Paul Hendrick. Nick Spaling and Brad Boyes return to the lineup, while James Reimer will get the start over Jonathan Bernier, who may be battling an injury of some sort.

van Riemsyk - Kadri - Komarov

Matthias - Bozak - Parenteau

Winnik - Spaling - Lupul

Grabner - Froese - Boyes

Gardiner - Phaneuf

Rielly - Hunwick

Marincin - Polak

Reimer

Probable Dallas Lines

Stars line combos at Monday morning practice, per Stars beat writer Mike Heika. Their third line may be better than our first, quite honestly.

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp

Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Mattias Janmark - Cody Eakin - Valeri Nichushkin

Antoine Roussel - Vernon Fiddler - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers

Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Key To The Game

I don't know. I honestly don't. The only edge the Leafs seem to have over teams is puck possession, but the Stars aren't exactly lightweights there. The Stars are also far, far better at converting their shots into goals than the Leafs could dream of. If the Stars have any flaws, it is defensively; they give up 30 shots a game. That said, they've gotten better goaltending from Niemi, who has a .915 SV%. So, if anything, get a lot of shots on net, and hope either the shooting gods smile on you or Niemi has an off night.

Even then, you still have to shut down the Benn line. And hope their PP doesn't make a truly atrocious penalty kill pay. And if you can do all those things, there's still Spezza, who has had the Leafs' number for years. You basically need a lot of things to go right for defense, special teams, and goaltending, where almost everything has gone wrong.

This leads me to my next segment....

What Else Is On TV?

Chances are you're probably gonna need some ideas on what to watch if this game goes like we all know it will. Here are some great suggestions.

TSN: Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m.-11:30 p.m.):

Indianapolis Colts face the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Could be worse for prime time matchups, I guess.

TLN: The Price is Right (8:00-9:00 p.m.):

Is there Plinko? I hope there's Plinko.

MUCH: The Simpsons (9:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m.):

Tonight's episode is Bart to the Future, a Season 11 episode. I know most people aren't fond of Simpsons episodes by this point, but this is one of the better and more memorable episodes for that season.

CHCH: Bruce Almighty (9:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.):

Yes, it's a goofy movie, but Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell are in it, and Morgan Freeman really is the voice of God; let's be honest.

Prediction

Leafs lose 5-1, but the real heartbreaker is that someone overbid on the Showcase Showdown.

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Editor's Note: Reader and sports journalism student Oliver Fisher -- of Leeds, England -- submitted a preview for tonight's game. You can read it below and follow him at @olifisher on Twitter.

The Toronto Maple Leafs welcome the Dallas Stars to the Air Canada Centre in a game that represents two complete opposites in terms of objectives for the season.

Dallas Stars at Toronto Maple Leafs

7:30PM - Air Canada Centre

TV: Sportsnet Ontario  / Radio: Sportsnet590

SBN: Defending Big D

The soaring Stars enter the Leafs territory aiming to compound their misery and build on what has been a fantastic start to the season for them under coach Lindy Ruff.

Tale of the tape:

Dallas is off to a 9-2-0 start which includes a record of 4-1-0, a record that hasnt been equaled since 2006-07 and previous to that back in 1996-97.

That puts them 14 (FOURTEEN) points ahead of their hosts tonight. They have double the goals. After 11 games. Well, the Leafs have played 10, but STILL.

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin (as expected) are off to red hot starts with a combined 33 points through 22 games so far. Benn has nine goals and eight assists, while Seguin has 11 assists and five goals. Oh, and to make things even better, Seguin is back in his hometown.

Really, this is an absolute mismatch. The Stars are averaging 3.64 goals per game, which is 3rd best in the NHL, while the Leafs have stuttered to a 2 goals per game average that is 28th in the league.

Toronto is also 28th in the NHL in terms of goals allowed per game with 3.3, while Dallas will be looking to improve upon their defence as they have conceded 2.73 goals per game; 17th in the league.

That being said, the Maple Leafs are inferior in every single offensive category and all but one defensive category (being shots against per game with 28.80 as opposed to 30.18).

Toronto will have to be on their A game during the penalty kill tonight as opponents Dallas have a 26.3% power play conversion rate, compared to the abysmal 7.4% of the Leafs. The Stars are also far better on the penalty kill, with an 81.3% rate compared to 73.7%.

Last time out:

The Stars beat the Sharks in a 5-3 decision on Saturday at the American Airlines Center.

Patrick Sharp opened the scoring for the home team early on, and Jason Demers doubled the advantage in the second period.

The Sharks came back through goals from Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto, and answered again on the power play with Joel Ward cancelling out a Vernon Fiddlers goal for the Stars that had re-established their lead.

Antoine Roussel and Tyler Seguin both scored inside the last ten minutes of the contest as the Stars continued their dominance atop the Western Conference.

Word of mouth:

"This has been an amazing start," goaltender Antti Niemi of Dallas said. "And I think we can play even better than this with more hard work.’’ Kari Lehtonen is expected to start against Toronto.

"I believe you have a responsibility as a good pro to bring it every day. And when adversity hits, you dig in a little bit harder and you stay with your structure and you stick with the program," said coach Babcock during the Penguins postgame press conference. "I didn't think we gave our fans that (Saturday) at all."

Injuries:

Stars: LW Travis Moen (upper body), RW Patrick Eaves (lower body) and LW Curtis McKenzie (lower body).

Maple Leafs: D Stephane Robidas, C Nick Spaling.