The Dallas Stars are one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference right now. Though, that’s not uncommon given that they compete in the Central Division, where most teams seem to be performing at a high level these days.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are heading in quite a different direction these days. They’ve got a losing record in their last 10 games, going 3-4-3. They’ve won just six games in their last 18. In the Central Division, that kind of record would likely have buried their playoff chances. Instead, they’ve ridden a good start to the season and a weaker division to comfortably maintain a playoff position. With 12 points between them and the next team in the division (the Detroit Red Wings), they’re likely to make the playoffs, barring some kind of epic collapse down the stretch.
That doesn’t mean they won’t come into Dallas desperate for a win, though. After all, no team wants to limp into the playoff picture. It’s better to have found some type of rhythm. That’s what they’ll be looking to establish as they continue their Central Division road trip tonight.
Dallas is equally desperate for points, but that’s because any kind of slip up in this division just gives another team a chance to leapfrog them in the standings. Every game from here through the end of the regular season is likely to have the intensity of a playoff game, with points scarce.
Luckily for Stars fans, Dallas is doing the winning thing right now. After back-to-back thumpings of Eastern Conference foes, and with a fairly fantastic run since the quarter-mark of the season (18-8-3, picking up 67% of available points), the team — and its fans — expect the winning thing to happen more often than not these days.
Dallas Stars Lineup
The Stars are going to roll with what gave them such success in their win versus the Florida Panthers, as they keep their lineup unchanged. That means that Gemel Smith and Julius Honka both will see healthy scratches, while Martin Hanzal and Marc Methot remain out with injuries.
Here were the lines and pairings from last game:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Remi Elie - Jason Spezza - Mattias Janmark
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Devin Shore - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Dillon Heatherington - Stephen Johns
Ben Bishop will be between the pipes. He’s allowed just two total goals in his last two outings.
Toronto Maple Leafs Lineup
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Mitch Marner
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Leo Komarov - Dominic Moore - Kasperi Kapanen
Jake Gardiner - Ron Hainsey
Travis Dermott - Connor Carrick
Andreas Borgman - Roman Polak
Frederik Andersen started last night versus the Blackhawks, so it’s possible that the Stars will see Curtis McElhinney in net tonight.