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Game Preview: Maple Leafs host Stars at the ACC tonight

The Leafs kick off back-to-back games against the Stars.

Dallas Stars v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Maple Leafs vs. Stars : Game # 70

Time: 7:00 PM EDT
Location: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Broadcast: Sportsnet, Fox-Sports SW, TVAS

Opponent SBNation Site: Defending Big D

The Leafs only other game against the Stars this season was back on January 25 in Dallas. The Leafs won it 4-1 with backup goalie Curtis McElhinney in net. Nazem Kadri scored twice, but the beauty goal was all Matthews from Nylander

Of course, Matthews won’t be playing tonight. While he has been reported to be practicing and feeling almost normal, the Leafs are expected to keep him out another game and have Nylander play at the center position in his place.

Andreas Johnsson and Calle Rosen were recalled from the Marlies yesterday. Johnsson, who is consistently at or near first place for points earned by players in the AHL this season, is expected to make his NHL debut tonight. It was announced today that Rosen has been sent back to the AHL. He was brought up on an “emergency” recall only. Travis Dermott did not participate in practice yesterday with ‘flu-like symptoms, per reports, but he’s back today displacing Rosen.

Here are the line projections for tonight. These will be updated as morning skates happen and if further updates are available.

Toronto Maple Leafs (from yesterday’s practice per Kristen Shilton)

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - William Nylander - Mitchell Marner
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Andreas Johnsson - Tomas Plekanec - Kasperi Kapanen

Not Playing: Josh Leivo, Matt Martin, Dominic Moore.

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak
Travis Dermott - Connor Carrick


Frederik Andersen
Curtis McElhinney

Dallas Stars (from last night’s game)

Forward Lines

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Devin Shore - Jason Dickinson - Mattias Janmark
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Remi Elie - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie

Defence Pairings

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Marc Methot - Stephen Johns


Kari Lehtonen (confirmed starter)
Mike McKenna

The Stars are in Toronto to finish off back-to-back road games. They played in Montreal last night and lost 4-2. You may notice their starting goalie Ben Bishop is missing from the lineup. Bishop injured himself in a game last week when his own defenceman fell on top of him. Coach Ken Hitchcock indicated he was “a few steps away” as of last Monday.

The Stars are mired in that mushy middle of teams in the Western Conference all battling for a Wild Card slot in the playoffs. They are tied with the Avalanche at 82 points, with the Ducks and Flames trailing one game back at 80 points. The suddenly resurgent Blues are back in the picture with 79. Needless to say, the Stars are desperate for wins after dropping the last two games.

I always get an impression the Stars are the Western Conference team with which fans in the east are best acquainted. Their reputation as a team out to score a lot of goals and win games more often with a score 7-6 than 2-1 precedes them, as does their ability to hang you out to dry if you give them a chance on the power play.

Seguin is tied for fifth in the league with 36 goals this season, but who really jumps out on the Stars’ roster is Klingberg with 50 assists this season, 28 of those first assists. He’s the only defenceman in the top 10 for assists across the league right now. Even Erik Karlsson is a ways back with 46. Expect a lot of scoring chances to be setup from the blue line when he is out, especially if the Leafs gift the Stars a power play opportunity. Look at this PP goal by Benn from last night’s game.

Meanwhile, the Leafs are meandering along, waiting for the playoffs to finally come. They kick-off a ridiculous schedule of 13 games in 25 days tonight to end the regular season. After tonight’s game they travel to Buffalo to play, then have one day off before playing the Habs back at the ACC on Saturday. The games then mostly alternate every other day for the rest of the season. A win tonight while still fresh and ready to go is ideal because it’s going to be an exhausting three week run to the finish line.