The Dallas Stars will look to make it five wins in a row when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at American Airlines Center.
The Stars are back home after sweeping a road trip against Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. Toronto comes to town in the midst of a three-game losing streak during which they’ve been outscored 14-5. There should be some desperation in Toronto’s game, but the Stars saw that from the opposition during the road trip.
“Well, we just played three teams that were on losing streaks, so we should be used to that,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I always feel it’s a dangerous game. I thought the Edmonton game was a game that I was very concerned and turned out to be after two periods we had a reason to be concerned. Again tonight, a team that’s desperate to win and has had maybe a little bit of a tough time, we’ve got to be ready to play.”
The Stars’ four-game winning streak is the longest since Ruff took over as head coach for the 2013-14 season. The Stars have had some ups and downs so far this season, but would are hoping to head into the Christmas break on a roll.
“Just keep playing the same way, our defense has to be tight, your goaltending has to be good, and you just got to manage the puck,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We’re a confident group. We know what we can do in here. We’ve stuck together from day one. We’ve been through the ups and downs.”
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars at this morning’s skate, so it looks as though he will get the start in net tonight. Based on this morning’s skate, Ruff will go with some of the lines he used late in Sunday’s 6-5 shootout win over Edmonton. Ales Hemsky skated on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The second line had Jason Spezza centering Antoine Roussel and Erik Cole. The defense pairs are expected to be the same. Travis Moen and Jamie Oleksiak are expected to be the scratches.
Morin settling in
So far, so good for Stars center Travis Morin in his latest call-up to the NHL. Morin hasn’t registered a point in his first four games, but he’s had some good chances and is a plus-one. And the team is winning.
“I’ve felt pretty good out there,” Morin said. “I’ve had some pretty good chances to score and I haven’t given up anything really. I just want to continue to do that and try to help the team win. We’re 4-0 since I have been up here, so that’s a good thing.”
“He’s had probably one Grade-A opportunity every game. He’s played well defensively, which has allowed him to play in some key situations even late in the game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I’ve liked the way he’s skated. Second power play, he’s done some good work. I’d just like to see him finish a couple of his opportunities.”
Morin is expected to center Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt in tonight’s game. He’s been averaging 12:14 of ice time per game, more than he saw in previous call-ups to the NHL.
“That’s a big thing. Just getting out there and getting in the flow of the game,” Morin said. “Having a consistent shift with the same linemates and getting a little bit of power play time. It’s something that helps the comfort level for me to go out there and relax and play my game.”
Maple Leafs watch
Jonathan Bernier will get the start in goal tonight for the Maple Leafs, who come into the game with three straight losses. Bernier is 13-8-3 on the season with a 2.76 goals against average and .917 save percentage.
The Stars are expected to play a video tribute to former Stars defensemen Stephane Robidas during the first TV timeout at tonight’s game. This will be the first time Robidas has played a regular season game vs. the Stars in Dallas since he was traded to Anaheim late last season. Robidas signed with the Maple Leafs as a free agent on July 1.
“I spent most of my career here. My life was here,” Robidas said. “Everything went well here with the organization. I even left on really good terms. They were honest and fair with me the whole way and I got nothing but good things to say about the city of Dallas and the organization.
“It’s never easy to play against your old team, and I got to experience it in the playoffs about a month after I got traded to Anaheim last year and that was really hard. You’re playing against guys that you played with for years and that you’ve battled through and tried to make the playoffs with them for most of the year. Obviously, it was really hard. It was no different the first time we played them in Toronto. It’s always special, but I just want to try and help the team win. That’s it.”
Who: Toronto Maple Leafs at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 6:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Erik Cole
Cody Eakin – Travis Morin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
John Klingberg – Alex Goligoski
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
Maple Leafs projected lineup
Joffrey Lupul – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – Mike Santorelli
Daniel Winnik – Peter Holland – David Clarkson
David Booth – Trevor Smith – Richard Panik
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Roman Polak
Morgan Rielly – Stephane Robidas
Scratched: Korbinian Holzer
Injured: Leo Komarov (concussion)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.