Having now dropped nine straight to start the season against their own division, the Dallas Stars schedule steers them East to take on what has generally been softer competition in recent years.
OK, so maybe it's actually pretty stiff competition, and two of the hardest places in the league to play this week. Ask the Chicago Blackhawks, who lost there at the Air Canada Center 3-2 despite throwing 47 pucks on net.
Toronto has collected points from the Central Division in three of their four attempts this season, going 2-1-1 against Chicago, Nashville, and a couple of meetings with those Colorado Avalanche who dispatched Dallas so thoroughly over the weekend.
The Leafs enter this one with a few days rest and a gust of wind in the sails of a power play that exploded for three goals in four tries against the Washington Capitals on Saturday. They're on a four-game point streak (3-0-1), including tough competition in the Penguins, Wings and Lightning.
Forward Leo Komarov missed practice Monday after a possible concussion took him out of Saturday's game, but he's expected to be ready this evening. "We kept him out for precautionary reasons and we'll know tomorrow on what's going to happen," an assistant coach said. "They thought it was best to keep him off the ice today."
Their lines at practice without him were these:
Yes, tonight marks a reunion with one of the best human beings in hockey- Stephane Robidas. He's appeared in 22 of their 23 games this season, recording three assists and a +6 rating on the year. He'll play on average about 15 minutes at even strength and will be on the second penalty killing unit (1:59 SHTOI/G this season).
"The responsibility has got to flip," Lindy Ruff told media Monday. "If you're going to put lines together they've got to play well. It's not me always trying to put somebody with somebody to get somebody going. Let's put the ownership on the players. If you're a good player you help get the players you're with going. That's their responsibility."
That being said, he changed the lines again.
Will Ales Hemsky get a shot at riding with Seguin and Benn? He's not had a good start to the season. That's not a secret. He does, however, have four points in his last five games, including an absolutely filthy first goal of the season against the Wild in the overtime loss Saturday.
Putting him with Benn and Seguin may indeed be a way to "get him going", but it's still not what the Stars wanted when they acquired him. Spezza and Hemsky were supposed to be the ones getting others going on a second line, as Ruff said above.
We'll see how yet another chemistry experiment works out this evening.
Alex Goligoski did not skate Monday and is questionable with a lower-body injury after being hit with a shot on Saturday. Jordie Benn, Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak would all be in if he is unable to go.
There's little reason to believe anyone but Kari Lehtonen will be back in the Dallas net after another rough outing for Anders Lindback in Colorado Saturday.
From Stars PR:
The Dallas Stars square off against Toronto to open a set of three consecutive games against Eastern Conference teams. The Stars have earned points in four of the first six contests (3-2-1) against Eastern teams this season, including a 3-1-0 mark against the East on the road. Forward Tyler Seguin leads the club with seven goals and 13 points (7-6=13) against Eastern conference foes, while Jamie Benn (5-5=10) and Jason Spezza (2-8=10) are tied for second with 10 points. Defenseman Alex Goligoski ranks second on the team and leads Stars blueliners with seven assist against the East this season.
And now for comedy, there's this from the Toronto Sun (torontosun.com...)
With a chance at their first five-game points streak since last January, the Leafs are looking forward to testing themselves against the Stars, always one of the best defensive teams in the league, with a nice touch of offence from Tyler Seguin. Forever linked to Kessel through the draft pick the Boston Bruins acquired in dealing the latter to Toronto, Seguin stands first in NHL goals at the start of the week with 18.
So, you know, don't go there to gather intelligence like I did.
See you here at 6:30 for puck drop and some dinner-time hockey camaraderie. Fox Sports Southwest PLUS on the tv side tonight.