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Preview: Stars at Maple Leafs

Forward Jiri Hudler returns for Dallas; goaltender Curtis McElhinney starts for Toronto

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

STARS (21-22-10) at MAPLE LEAFS (24-17-10)

7:30 p.m. ET; TSN4, FS-SW+, NHL.TV

Stars team scope

Dallas Stars forward Jiri Hudler will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past six games. "It's been a tough year for him," coach Lindy Ruff said. "He missed a good couple months with being sick, and then recently a personal leave for a few days." Ruff is hoping Hudler, who has two goals and five assists in 22 games this season, can add a wrinkle to the lineup. "He's the one guy that can be creative," Ruff said. "He can give us that extra punch on one of our power-play units. He can maybe create that extra chance for you. He's always been good offensively. He's the type of guy that can bring people to him and open up other people on the ice." Goaltender Antti Niemi will start. He last played Jan. 26, when he was pulled after one period when he allowed two goals on five shots in a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres. The Stars are five points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with three teams ahead of them. "We have to be ready for a fast team and play our system right," forward Tyler Seguin said. "Back on the road, we really have to work on how we defend to help us get more points, and we need points right now."

Maple Leafs team scope

Goaltender Curtis McElhinney will start when the Toronto Maple Leafs conclude a set of back-to-back games. Frederik Andersen allowed six goals on 34 shots in a 6-5 overtime loss to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn on Monday. McElhinney last played Jan. 31, when he allowed three goals on 12 shots in a 6-3 loss at Dallas after relieving Andersen. "It was pretty ugly for us; they slapped us around pretty good," coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought it was a river hockey game; we weren't very good, period." The Maple Leafs are 1-3-1 in their past five games and are in third place in the Atlantic Division. The Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins each have 58 points, but the Maple Leafs have three games in hand. They have scored 15 goals in their past four games but have allowed 22. "We've definitely been reviewing a few things," defenseman Jake Gardiner said. "And I think the biggest thing is letting the other team outnumber us at our net and just making sure to keep them away as much as possible." Babcock said he is looking for better discipline on defense. "It's like going to Vegas. You can gamble or you can play right and you're still going to score just as much," he said. "Some people don't believe that. I believe if you play right defensively, you score more."

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn -- Cody Eakin -- Patrick Eaves

Antoine Roussel -- Tyler Seguin -- Brett Ritchie

Devin Shore -- Radek Faksa -- Patrick Sharp

Jiri Hudler -- Adam Cracknell -- Lauri Korpikoski

Esa Lindell -- John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis -- Patrik Nemeth

Jordie Benn -- Stephen Johns

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Julius Honka, Curtis McKenzie

Injured: Jason Spezza (upper body), Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)


Maple Leafs projected lineup

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Mitchell Marner

Leo Komarov -- Nazem Kadri -- William Nylander

Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- Connor Brown

Matt Martin -- Ben Smith -- Nikita Soshnikov

Morgan Rielly -- Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner -- Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick -- Roman Polak

Curtis McElhinney

Frederik Andersen

Scratched: Josh Leivo, Martin Marincin, Alexey Marchenko

Injured: None

Status report

Marincin is likely to be a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game. The Maple Leafs are expected to go with the same 18 skaters they used against the Islanders.

Who's hot

Jamie Benn has five goals and three assists during a six-game point streak. Klingberg has one goal and four assists during a four-game point streak. ... Van Riemsdyk has six goals and 13 assists in his past 17 games. Kadri has seven goals and 10 assists in his past 15 games. Marner has four goals and 12 assists in his past 13 games. Nylander has four goals in his past two games. Matthews has one goal and three assists in his past two games.

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