The Toronto Maple Leafs may be flying high in the East so far this season, but they’ll be flying without one of their stars for the next four weeks. Auston Matthews left the game against the Winnipeg Jets after a clean hit. He’s been ruled out with a shoulder injury, and that will mean around 10 games Toronto will have to get by without him.
They have the depth to be able to be successful even without Matthews in the lineup. However, if they hit a skid in that time, you have to start wondering if things start ramping up again in the William Nylander front. Nylander, an unrestricted free agent, is still in a stalemate with the Leafs front office on his next contract.
A sliding Leafs team may get desperate enough to come down off their expectations in negotiations. But it’s also a double-edged sword — a solid record in that time could harden the team’s stance, as they won’t be in need of scoring help and will be getting Matthews back in a relatively short time.
However it plays out with Nylander, the Stars will not be facing off against him in the regular season this year. After a 7-4 drubbing by the Leafs on home ice in the third game of the year, the Stars will be looking to return the favor in the last match-up between these two clubs this season.
Dallas has a star of they’re own missing tonight. After getting Alexander Radulov back for the game against the Montreal Canadiens, the top line right wing sustained an injury and will come out of the lineup again after missing four straight games prior to Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, Dallas doesn’t quite have the depth the Toronto squad has to overcome losing a top line forward for any big amount of time.
The Stars are on their longest road trip of the season — 6 games in 12 nights. So far, they’re 1-1 on the trip, dropping the first game to the Detroit Red Wings and then winning against the Montreal Canadiens in which they didn’t look all that great. (To be fair, the Stars had looked good in some of those games during their 3-game losing streak and probably deserved to win at least one of those, so you could consider the Canadiens win a bit of an evening out of the luck dragons that occurs over the season.)
They’ll have to be much better than that game to top the Maple Leafs tonight, though.
Toronto is reminiscent of the 2015-2016 Dallas Stars — scoring about 3.5 goals a game and allowing about 3 goals a game. They can lay it on thick offensively but are also vulnerable if they’re forced to play defense a lot. The key for Dallas will be imposing their will onto the game — something they have really yet to accomplish on the road this season.
Dallas Stars Lineup
With Radulov out once again, the lines will get a shakeup from the last game. Without lines being skated at morning skate today, it’s hard to tell how head coach Jim Montgomery will shape his roster. With Justin Dowling the reported late skater and likely scratch at forward, it could be something like these lines — but is likely going to change as the game takes shape, something Montgomery did in the last game as well. Defense should remain the same as the last game, as Connor Carrick deals with not being able to put a skate on after blocking a shot in the game vs Detroit.
Devin Shore - Tyler Seguin - Mattias Janmark
Jamie Benn - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin
Tyler Pitlick - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Gemel Smith - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Marc Methot - Miro Heiskanen
Julius Honka - Roman Polak
Toronto Maple Leafs Lineup
Here’s what Toronto has been running since losing Matthews to injury:
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Kasperi Kapanen
Andreas Johnsson - Par Lindholm - Connor Brown
Tyler Ennis - Frederik Gauthier - Josh Leivo
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Justin Holl - Travis Dermott
Frederik Andersen will start in net.
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