Gameday Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Dallas Stars (7:00pm CST)

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

The Stars look for consecutive wins for the first time since December 27th tonight against the Leafs.

The Dallas Stars may have lost nine of ten before Tuesday night's commanding 4-0 win over the Minnesota Wild, but they know they're better than that.

They scored first in six of the ten. In six of the ten they were either tied or trailing by a single shot in the game's final 20 minutes. They out-attempted their opponents in five of the ten, sometimes grossly so, and in losses.

Tuesday night the chances finally started going in, and the power play continues to be a strong suit with six goals in their last five games.

"It can definitely help," head coach Lindy Ruff said of the win relating to the team's confidence. "It's been frustrating because we've had a lot of good opportunities inside a game that haven't gone for us. We've started some games really well and all of a sudden a goal can go in and it's a little bit of a letdown."

It was a breath of fresh air for the players, the coaching staff, the fanbase, and the front office- But it was only the start of an attempt to climb what they've made into a precipitous climb.

Still, with Minnesota facing the Blackhawks and then three on the road against the Sharks, Ducks and Avalanche, anything is possible.

The Stars face their own schedule strength issues, however, with a red-hot Maple Leaf team in town, followed by the Pittsburgh Penguins , Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks all before the Olympic break.

Toronto is fresh off a 5-2 thumping of the Avalanche at Pepsi Center Tuesday night. They've rattled off six victories in a row (NJD, BOS, BUF, MTL, PHX, COL) to rocket themselves back up the standings and into a tie with the 4th place Montreal Canadiens (the same number of points gets you #8 in the West).

They've picked things up offensively, scoring 3.83 goals per game during the streak while our old Pacific Division friend Jonathan Bernier has shored up things quite expertly on the backside.

Like Dallas', their power play is red-hot with 8 goals in their last 26 chances (over 30%), including, also like Dallas, six total in their last five games.

Their lineup:

van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel
Kulemin-Kadri-Lupul
Raymond-Holland-Bodie
Ashton-McClement-Orr

Gunnarsson-Phaneuf
Franson-Gleason
Gardiner-Rielly

Bernier
Reimer

James Mirtle offers some numbers behind their recent winning streak over at The Globe. A sample...

220-180: Ratio by which the Leafs have been out-shot over the last six games, which works out to 36.7 shots against and 30 shots for per game. That's actually an improvement over their season totals, especially when you consider that teams leading in games always tend to give up more opportunities as they protect the lead (known as score effects). Toronto has been generating about 10 per cent more shots per game over this stretch than they were earlier, which is another key improvement. [

The Globe and Mail]

Expect Bernier to be in the Toronto net as they ride the hot hand. Or pads, or whatever.

Dallas sent Dustin Jeffrey through waivers Wednesday, but that doesn't mean they have to assign him to the Texas Stars today. Friday sounds just as likely, so it sounds as though they'll keep him around for an extra body and that Valeri Nichushkin will stay in the lineup a while.

Kevin Connauton was the scratch on defense Tuesday, allowing Jordie Benn to perform his penalty shot heroics following a trip to the box, so the guess is he'll stay in after a round of media attention and a boost of confidence, but nothing should surprise us now.

Expected lines are these:

Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin
Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt
Horcoff-Peverley-Chiasson
Whitney-Fiddler-Cole

Dallas did not practice Wednesday, so the starter in net is anyone's guess with Kari Lehtonen having started both nights of the back-to-back against Nashville and Minnesota.

The puck drops early again tonight at 7:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest locally and on TSN proper in Canada.

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