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Stars go for third straight win against Leafs

by Tal Pinchevsky
MAPLE LEAFS (12-8-2) at STARS (13-8-0)


Last 10: Toronto 4-5-1; Dallas 5-5-0.

Season Series: This is the first and only matchup between these teams. In their only game last season, Nikolai Kulemin notched two goals and Mikhail Grabovski had two helpers as the Leafs topped the Stars 4-1 in Toronto on Nov. 22, 2010.

Big Story: In a season that has seen a number of teams exceed expectations, Dallas and Toronto are among the biggest surprises. While they haven't maintained their torrid pace from the start of the season, the Leafs remain atop the Northeast Division and are second in the Eastern Conference with 26 points. The Stars have fallen off from their hot start as well and have fallen behind San Jose and Los Angeles in the Pacific.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: After starting the season 7-2-1, the Leafs hit a snag in November, absorbing a 1-3-1 stretch in which they lost 7-0 to the Bruins on Nov. 5, their worst home loss since a 5-0 defeat against Edmonton on Dec. 2, 2010.

But since the debacle against the defending Stanley Cup champions, Toronto has managed to rebound, winning two of their last three. Both of those wins have been 7-1 blowout wins, first against the Capitals at home on Saturday and then Tuesday night in Tampa Bay against the Lightning.

Against the Lightning on Tuesday, Tim Connolly collected three points in the first period and Tyler Bozak scored twice as the Leafs rode six unanswered goals to a resounding 7-1 win. With that performance, Toronto's fifth-ranked offense has 16 goals in its last three games.

Stars: Dallas got off to one of the hottest, and unlikeliest, starts of the season, going 11-3-0. But a five-game losing skid hurt that start and allowed the Sharks and Kings to leapfrog the Stars in the division. That skid ended Monday night in front of new owner Tom Gaglardi, when Dallas rediscovered its scoring touch against Edmonton.

After scoring only four goals total in their five-game losing streak, Dallas managed to score four times in a single night against the visiting Oilers. With Toby Peterson and Radek Dvorak both collecting their first of the season, the Stars hoped to continue that scoring pace on Wednesday against Los Angeles. Hosting the Kings, the Stars came back from an early 2-0 deficit, tying the game on Loui Eriksson's goal with 21 seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime, Steve Ott completed the comeback with his fourth goal of the season to give Dallas their second straight win.

Who's Hot: For the Leafs, Connolly has six points in his current three-game point streak while Phil Kessel has five points in the same span and Joffrey Lupul has seven points in his own four-game point streak. … In Dallas, Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro both have three points in their respective three-game point streaks.

Injury Report: The Leafs are scoring despite a rash of injuries, as Nazem Kadri (knee), Colby Amstrong (ankle), James Reimer (concussion), Mikhail Grabovski (lower body), Mike Komisarek (broken arm), and Matthew Lombardi (shoulder) are all on IR. … For the Stars, captain Brenden Morrow is questionable with an upper-body injury while Adam Burish (hand) and Alex Goligoski (thumb) are on IR.

Stat Pack: The potent offense that has led the Leafs so far this season has certainly exceeded any and every expectation. The team is currently ranked fifth in the League in goals per game and is on pace to score 261 goals, their highest output since the 1998-99 season. Toronto's leading scorer that season was Mats Sundin, whose 83 points mark the last time a Leaf collected more than 80 points in an NHL campaign.

Puck Drop: This game could very well come down to special teams. Toronto has the League's third most potent power play and their playing against a Stars team has been struggling with penalties. The Stars' penalty kill ranks 17th in the League, but they've shown a recent penchant for taking too many penalties, but they average 16.6 penalty minutes per game third most in the League. Through 19 games, they were also shorthanded 93 times and on the power play 61 times, a minus-32 disparity that is worst in the League.
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