Friday, November 25th, 2011, 7:30 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent SB Nation Blog: Pension Plan Puppets
The Dallas Stars broke their five game losing streak on Monday against the Edmonton Oilers but looked poised to return to the loss column with only 20 seconds remaining against the Kings on Wednesday. That is, until the Stars' coaching staff drew up a dynamite play on a faceoff outside the offensive zone and Loui Eriksson sent the game to an overtime that Steve Ott would eventually end.
Just like that the Stars have a new winning streak to continue tonight when the Toronto Maple Leafs make a rare visit to the American Airlines Center.
According to Dallas Stars PR: "The Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs meet for their first and only game of the season. Dallas lost the lone meeting between these two clubs last season by a final score of 4-1, and have only played Toronto six times in the last eight seasons."
These teams enter the game polar opposites in style. Dallas has scored only 56 goals this year to the Leafs' 70. On the other hand the Stars have surrendered only 57 to the Leafs'...once again, 70. Toronto will come with very young players, speed and hard work to counteract Gulutzan's defensive system. The Stars will need strong penalty killing and goaltending to keep this one at reasonable totals. After all, Toronto is coming off 7-1 victories (seriously) over BOTH the Capitals and the Lightning in two of their last three games.
More on each after the jump...
The big news out of Frisco yesterday morning was the continuing injury woes that have already seen Steve Ott miss significant time, followed by Alex Goligoski and Adam Burish, both of whom are out until Christmas. Brenden Morrow joined them, missing Wednesday's game, and will miss at least the next three with multiple upper body issues, Glen Gulutzan said Thursday.
"He's out through the weekend and we're hoping come Thursday we'll have a completely healthy Brenden," Gulutzan said. "He's very close, but he's got a couple of upper body things that need to get looked after and then I think we are going to have a good, healthy captain."
That leaves Tomas Vincour presumably up with Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott for this one and tomorrow night's contest in Phoenix at the very least. He was effective in replacing Morrow and adds much needed puck pursuit strength to that line.
Mike Ribeiro took a big shot Wednesday night in overtime while moving the puck ahead to Robidas on the game winning play, but insists he's fine. News was made earlier that game when Ribeiro apparently complained about a tripping call in the second period and then Gulutzan seemingly benched him for two shifts. (The evidence is here in the play by play). The Stars are trying to get on the right side of penalty calls and Gulutzan is taking the proposed change in attitude seriously.
On defense we expect Philip Larsen to continue to play, but with who? Mark Fistric has been his partner but the two have had issues moving the puck out of their own end. We'll see at morning skate if Adam Pardy will get a start instead of Fistric.
Kari Lehtonen, of course, will be in the Dallas net.
Like the Stars the Maple Leafs started hot but have come back to the pack at 12-8-2. Both teams sit "middle-of-the-pack" with 26 points. Toronto, despite TWO 7-1 victories in their last three games, has an even goal differential for the season.
They key tonight again for Dallas is simple: Stay out of the penalty box at all costs. The Leafs have scored power play goals in five straight games and are a staggering eight of their last fifteen in that span. (53%). Three of the five games were on the road. To allow that power play time to work would be near suicidal. The Stars have not allowed a power play goal in their current two game win-streak.
In goal tonight expect Jonas Gustavsson. You may remember the great "Monster" watch of 2009 when the Stars courted the unsigned free agent. He ultimately went with Toronto and has been up and down there, losing 43 of 76 starts with a career save percentage of just .898 and a GAA of 3.04. Dallas had to settle for Kari Lehtonen, which is working out quite pretty well, you might say.
Gustavsson has been hot as of late, however, stopping 67 of 69 in his last two starts, both wins. He's filling in for the injured James Reimer.
"If I got back by the end of this trip, that would be great; if I got back next Wednesday, that would be great," Reimer told media recently. "I want to return as soon as possible. If I could play tomorrow, that would be sweet, too, but it's up to the coaching staff. We're going to talk it over."
Forward lines for the young Leafs have looked something like this in recent games:
Phil Kessel is off to a hot start with 30 points in 22 games, though he carries only a +6 rating with numbers like that. Stars fans will recognize former Western Conference foes in Dion Phanuef and John-Michael Liles on their back end, who are having nice years offensively.