Game Preview #23 - Stars vs Leafs

 

Coming off of a big 7-1 victory on Tuesday night the Toronto Maple Leafs (12-8-2) seem to be all smiles at the moment. Considering #1 goalie James Reimer started practicing in full yesterday followed by the entire blue and white organization (those that were in Dallas) taking in the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins game yesterday afternoon. While I'm all for team building exercises and enjoying the season, it all means nothing if the Leafs come out flat tonight against the Dallas Stars (13-8-0). Coming into the game tonight on the heels of two straight victories, the Stars will pose a challenge for the undermanned buds tonight. Led by forwards Jamie Benn (21 pts in 21 games) and Loui Eriksson (20 pts in 21 games), the Stars have had a solid season so far. Former all-world prospect and high first rounder (taken 2nd overall by Atlanta in 2002) Kari Lehtonen has found his game in the lone star state. Lehtonen is 13-4-0 this season while posting great numbers (2.32 gaa and a .928 save percentage). The Leafs will need to get plenty create plenty of traffic in front of the red-hot Stars goalie.

Toronto has scored 16 goals in their last three games, and will be looking to keep that balanced offense going tonight. With Tim Connolly and Joe Colborne solidifying the centre ice position of late, the Leafs will need to utilize their speed against a slowish Stars back-end. Jonas Gustavsson will start his second consecutive game tonight. His name is Jonas has stopped 69 of 71 shots in his last two starts. Look for the Leafs to play only three lines tonight as both Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill will flank the fourth line. That line has played less than five minutes the last three games. Mike Brown was placed on injured reserve today, so a callup (most likely Darryl Boyce) is expected soon. The Leafs catch a break as Stars captain Brendan Morrow will miss his second straight game.

Lineups

Forwards 

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
Kulemin - Connolly - MacArthur
Frattin - Colborne - Crabb
Orr - Dupuis - Rosehill

Defense

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Liles - Franson
Gardiner - Schenn

Goalies

Gustavsson
Scrivens

Stars

Forwards  

Eriksson - Benn - Ryder
Vincour - Ribiero - Ott
Nystrom - Fiddler - Dvorak
Dowell - Wandell - Petersen

Defense

Souray - Robidas
Daley -  Grossman
Fistric - Larsen

Goalies

Lehtonen
Raycroft

Players to Watch

Leafs: Tim Connolly - The productive centre has put up five points in his last three games. The Leafs need his production tonight if they are going to get a result tonight.

Stars: Loui Eriksson - With ten goals already the productive sniper is exactly the type of player that Leaf fans think Kulemin can become. Having potted 27, 29 and 36 goals the last three years respectively Eriksson is one of the league's most underrated players.

Game Time: 8:30 at the American Airlines Centre. TV - Sportsnet Ontario.Radio - AM640