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At the Rink: Stars at Maple Leafs

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The question used to be Tyler or Taylor? Now it is Tyler or Phil?

Prior to the 2010 NHL Draft the big question was who deserved to go first, Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires or Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers. Hall was chosen first by the Edmonton Oilers and Seguin went second to the Boston Bruins, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Things have changed a bit since.

Hall has proven himself worthy of being the No. 1 pick with the Oilers, though his team has not enjoyed much success. Seguin lasted three seasons with the Bruins and was traded to the Dallas Stars in 2013, where he has emerged as a serious threat to capture the Art Ross Trophy as the League's leading scorer.

Nobody talks about Tyler or Taylor now; not since the Toronto Maple Leafs traded two first-round picks to the Bruins -- one of which was used on Seguin -- and a second-round pick for forward Phil Kessel.

That's when it became Tyler or Phil. At least in Toronto, and it comes up every time the two play against one another.

Kessel did not bring with him the instant gratification the Maple Leafs were looking for. That said, he has been one of the most productive scorers in the NHL the past three-plus seasons, finishing sixth in League scoring last season, eighth the season before and sixth in 2011-12. Seguin, meanwhile, finished fourth in scoring last season.

Currently, Seguin's Stars are 11th in the Western Conference standings and he leads the League in goals (18) and ranks third in scoring with 31 points. He also has a plus-7 rating. Kessel's Maple Leafs are seventh in the Eastern Conference and he enters play Tuesday 10th in scoring with 11 goals and 25 points. Seguin is 22 years old; Kessel is 27.

Seguin is red-hot with four goals and seven points in his past four games while Kessel is slumping, with one goal and four points in seven games.

And all eyes will be on the two of them Tuesday.

"Obviously they are both pretty special players with what they bring to the table in terms of offense," Toronto left wing James van Riemsdyk said. "They both have speed and great shots. It seems like [the trade] ended up working out for both sides."

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle often matches his top line, which features center Tyler Bozak between Kessel and van Riemsdyk, against the opponent's top-scoring unit. Carlyle said his hope is his players will force the opposition to play a great deal of each shift in the defensive zone.

"It frustrates offensive players if they have to play defense and it is consistent," Carlyle said.

Toronto defenseman Cody Franson and his partner Dion Phaneuf usually go head-to-head with the opponent's top line, and he is expecting a challenge from the Stars' top line of Seguin, Jamie Benn and Ales Hemsky.

"They have a few gifted guys over there," Franson said. "If you give them time and space they're going to end up on the score sheet and make you chase the game. You have to try to play close to them and not give them an easy night."

Seguin seems to be leading a charmed life these days, and as he made his way into the Stars dressing room following the morning skate only to see a pack of reporters gathered around his stall, he smiled and said, "Ah, Toronto."

Asked about going head-to-head against Kessel, Seguin again smiled and wondered, "Is that still being talked about?"

"I think he's a great player," Seguin said of Kessel. "I'm still a bit of a Leafs fan at heart. I grew up watching the Leafs and loving them. Obviously he's their top guy. He's a great player. It's weird how it all worked out, how I could have been there. But I think we've both moved on from that."

Seguin said the biggest difference in his game this season is he is shooting the puck more.

"My first couple of years in the League I think I looked to pass first when I got the puck," Seguin said.

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Ales Hemsky

Erik Cole - Jason Spezza - Patrick Eaves

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Travis Moen

Trevor Daley - Jason Demers

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Colton Sceviour

Injured: Patrik Nemeth (arm laceration), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Mike Santorelli

Richard Panik - Peter Holland - David Clarkson

Daniel Winnik - Trevor Smith - David Booth

Cody Franson - Dion Phaneuf

Morgan Rielly - Stephane Robidas

Jake Gardiner - Korbinian Holzer

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: None

Injured: Leo Komarov (upper body)

Status report: Komarov will miss the game Tuesday with an upper-body injury. He left the game Saturday against the Washington Capitals after being hit by Alexander Ovechkin. ... Panik likely will play after being scratched the past two games. … Garbutt returns to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for a knee-on-knee hit against the Oilers' Hall.

Who's hot: Goligoski has seven assists in games against Eastern Conference teams. ... Benn is on a six-game point streak with three goals and seven assists. … Bozak has five goals in his past three game and is on a four-game point streak. ... Santorelli has four assists in the past three games.

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