Maple Leafs hope to make it two in a row
Wednesday, 10.28.2009 / 7:00 PM
MAPLE LEAFS (1-7-1) at STARS (5-2-4)
: Maple Leafs 1-7-1; Stars 5-2-3
: This will be the sole meeting between Dallas and Toronto this season. In their only matchup last year, the Stars romped in a rare visit to the ACC, beating the Leafs, 8-2, behind a hat trick by James Neal.
: After knocking off the Ducks on Monday for their first win of the year, the remade Maple Leafs will look to carry their momentum into Dallas.
: It may have taken far longer than anticipated, but Toronto finally grabbed its first win
of the season Monday and all it took was for GM Brian Burke to return to his old stomping grounds.
Despite struggling to find any sort of offensive groove in their first eight games, the Leafs were clicking on all cylinders in Anaheim, where Burke built a Stanley Cup champion three seasons ago. Toronto scored six goals on a Ducks team that still has many key cogs from its title season, with left wing Niklas Hagman leading the way with three of the Leafs' five power play goals. While Toronto still has a ways to climb in the standings, many players still feel as though a weight has been lifted.
"It is a big relief," defenseman Tomas Kaberle said. "We never thought we would go (winless) until late October."
: Fortunes have been far better for the Stars for much of this season, as the conference finalists from two years ago currently sit sixth in the West and just two points behind first-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division. Dallas, too, is coming off a victory, a 4-1 win in St. Louis Saturday, but their grit and mettle might be tested against a very physical Leafs team. Toronto made a point of flexing its muscle early against Anaheim, and Dallas will be without its typical answer, as grinder Steve Ott
has been suspended for two games after a low hit on the Blues' Carlo Colaiacovo.
Still, even without Ott the Stars bring a solid offense -- they're ninth in the League in goals per game -- and bring a rejuvenated Marty Turco to the table.
: After an uncharacteristically average season last year, Turco seems to have found his game again. The three-time all-star has won two straight while sporting a 2.19 goals against average. He isn't the only hot Star as James Neal and Loui Eriksson
have combined for 11 points in the last three games. For Toronto, last night wasn't Hagman's only noteworthy night of the season. His hat trick may have been a breakout performance, but Hagman has recorded a point in all but two games this year.
: Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen are still on IR for Dallas, but defenseman Matt Niskanen is expected to return to the lineup. Phil Kessel
is still a few weeks from returning, while goalie Vesa Toskala remains on IR for Toronto.
: In scoring five power-play goals against the Ducks Monday, Toronto took advantage of 17 Anaheim penalties. The Leafs won't be able to rely on such a lack of discipline from Dallas. The Stars have only committed more than seven penalties once this season.
: Among the many problems for Toronto early this season has been poor play between the pipes, but the Leafs may have found their answer in Jonas Gustavsson
. The Swedish import made 25 saves in his first NHL win, and with solid goaltending, things could get much smoother in Toronto. It is a tall task to get back over .500 quickly, particularly with Dallas providing a tough and immediate challenge Wednesday night, but for now the Leafs are expecting their win Monday to finally get them on the right track.
"Hopefully," as Hagman put it, "we'll remember next game how good it feels."
-- David Kalan, NHL.com