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Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at Dallas Stars

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Time for some offence-first hockey.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Dallas Stars
Ah yes, those were the days, when #16 was Nick Spaling.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs at Dallas Stars: Game #48

Time: 8:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Corporation Arena, same as every other game.

Broadcast/Streaming: Fox Sports - Southwest, Sportsnet Ontario

Opponent SBNation Site: Defending Big D

Yet another first game back after a long layoff. The Leafs, this season, are struggling in games where they have stepped outside of their routine. The Christmas break, the bye week and now this break have filled the last few weeks with non-game days.

That is about to change. The schedule will get tough and relentless, and perhaps that is for the best. This team gets distracted a little too easily. That game pace, that gas pedal to the floor, nothing held back pace, is, interestingly, something they need to do regularly or they lose a step.

The Leafs practice yesterday was a big will he or won’t he tease regarding Morgan Rielly. He played his usual spot for the practice with Marincin dropping down to the third pair and bumping Matt Hunwick, so that might be how the game goes, or it might not.

This game is the first of a multiple-game road trip, and if not tonight then soon, we should see Rielly back.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

Matt Martin - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov

Defence Pairings

Martin Marincin or Morgan Rielly - Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick or Martin Marincin - Roman Polak

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Dallas Stars

From daily faceoff

Forward Lines

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves

Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin

Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Patrick Sharp

Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie

Defence Pairings

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Patrik Nemeth - Stephen Johns

Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn

Goaltenders

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi


The Dallas Stars make me nervous.

They, long before Mike Babcock started playing a similar style, typified the runaway train style of offence. What they did over the past few years is just go for it in the offensive zone—generate rush chances, get the occasional cycle going and never, ever, remember to lock the door behind them before they left.

Last year there was a lot of talk about their share of high-danger scoring chances being really super great and was totally the reason you shouldn’t look deeper at how massive their shots against were. Then they went pfffft in the playoffs, and this year they are getting outplayed by the Vancouver Canucks and will need a serious hard run in the last few weeks to even think of a wildcard spot. Their shots against are much worse too.

All of that is what makes me nervous. The margin between we can totally outshoot our own defensive ineptitude and Dallas this year is very small.

Now beyond some similarity in style, they are a much different team, older, playing a goalie tandem who aren’t as bad as you think they are, but trying to survive with some very inexperienced defencemen in key roles. Tyler Seguin is 24 and in his sixth NHL season. He’s their youngster up front, aside from Devin Shore and Brett Ritchie.

Both teams need to win to make the playoffs, and that should make for a fast, exciting game. And if the Leafs finally take fewer penalties in a game for once, they might be done before midnight.