The Maple Leafs (12-8-2) and their opponent tonight, the Dallas Stars (13-8-0), have traveled similar trajectories through their opening 20+ games, as hot starts for both clubs were followed by November slumps. A November 5th loss to Boston kicked off a 1-4-1 slide for the Leafs, while a loss to Pittsburgh on November 11 marked the beginning of a 0-5 skid for the Stars. Both teams have recovered a bit as of late, as the Leafs have won two of their last three and the Stars enter tonight on a two-game winning streak. Overall, the two teams have posted solid records despite conceding more than they’ve scored.
The Leafs will go with the same lineup, and same goalie in Jonas Gustavsson, that earned them a 7-1 win in Tampa Bay. Since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, when the expectation became that Gus would take over the reigns as the Leafs’ number one, very little has gone right for Gustavsson, and it hasn’t always been his fault. In his last two performances, things couldn’t have gone better. Consecutive 7-1 wins have to help Gus’ confidence, and certainly have helped dispel the myth that the team doesn’t have the confidence to play their offensive game in front of him. With a good showing tonight, Gustavsson would break the .900 save percentage mark on the season.
The Leafs should get a few chances to put their now-third-best powerplay to work as the Stars are the third most penalized team in the league.