The possession numbers say the Dallas Stars 4-3 win in Chicago Tuesday night was perhaps their ugliest game of the season. Only 30 shots attempted versus 71 for Chicago (5-on-5) paints quite a picture. Antoine Roussel's dramatic penalty shot winner, on the other hand, made it one of the most satisfying.
Either way, improvement, and plenty of it is in order if their road success is to continue.
In Toronto they find a struggling team that appears to be on its way down, but newly thrusted into the NHL's biggest spot light with the arrival of HBO's 24/7 cameras earlier in the week.
Many north of the border, perhaps knee-jerking after a terrific start has turned sour, dread the dysfunction the cameras may reveal to two nations. Leafs' defenceman Mark Fraser has a more positive outlook on the situation.
"Guys are just going to kind of be themselves, but maybe in the back of their minds they'll want to provide a little bit more entertainment, too, and that might calm us down or just make us a little more at ease," Fraser said.
The cameras will add pressure- The Leafs will flourish or crumble in the long run, but for tonight their compete will surely be dialed up, and the Stars will have a raucous crowd with which to deal. Yet another challenge for Ruff's bunch that's seen their fair share, and succeeded, on the road.
The puck drops on this one at just after 6:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest proper.
Wednesday was a CBA mandated off-day for the Stars, but a key cog did take the ice in Tyler Seguin. The center, suffering concussion like symptoms following a hit during last Friday's game against Chicago, skated for 45 minutes and according to Mike Heika looked good.
Per Stars policy injured players need not give comment to the media, but speculation is that he'll be a real possibility tonight in Toronto.
The lineup has been this the last two games:
Seguin's return could put it back to something like this:
Kevin Connauton played against the Hawks. Jamie Oleksiak against the Oilers on Sunday. Now we'll see what Ruff and Patrick's preference is after having sampled both flavors in the coming games and what the long-term plan is for replacing the irreplaceable in Stephane Robidas.
Kari Lehtonen should start in net.
From Stars PR: "The Dallas Stars are playing just their fourth game at Air Canada Centre since the start of the 2002-03 season. Dallas' previous three visits to Toronto in that span is the fewest of any NHL club (per Elias). By comparison, the Stars have played at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles 33 times in the same span of time. The last time the Stars played in Toronto was Nov. 22, 2010 - just three Stars from that previous meeting remain on the active roster (Benn, Daley and Lehtonen)."
The Maple Leafs:
The Leafs are having some injury troubles. Questionable for tonight are Colton Orr, Tyler Bozak, Cody Franson, and Nazem Kadri. Dave Bolland is out and Lupul's return seems doubtful given his early departure from yesterday's practice.
Then there's the fact that even Phil Kessel left practice early in apparent discomfort. Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle played down the latest on his team's leading scorer.
"He said that he'd had enough of practice, and he said that he didn't feel good in one area of his body, so we let him go," Carlyle said. "A little tweak."
Toronto has lost 5 in a row and 10 of their last 14 overall after a 10-4-0 start to the year. By Corsi or Fenwick they're the second-to-worst possession team in the league ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres. They give up the most shots in the NHL at over 36 per game- Though after the Stars gave up 50 in Chicago we shall not cast too many stones on that front.
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