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Dallas Stars

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Leafs vs Stars

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in Dallas (8 p.m., TSN) looking to extend their winning streak to 7 games— which would be their longest in 11 years (2003).

The last time the two teams faced off, the Leafs won 3-2 off a Trevor Smith tip in overtime. Nazem Kadri scored twice in regulation.

Dallas is mired in a poor stretch of play –  2-7-1 in their last 10 games – but won their last game 4-0 over Minnesota on Tuesday. Their top line is a serious threat, with Benn and Seguin combining for 86 points between them this season, compared to JvR and Kessel’s 91. After their dynamic duo the Stars have a bit of a drop off in production, with no other player scoring at a greater than .50 points-per-game rate (compared to the six scoring at .50 or greater for the Leafs).

The Stars’ bigger issue, though, has been keeping pucks out of their net, as they sit 25th in goals against (2.96 per game). The Stars and Leafs actually stack up one behind the other in both goals for and against, with the key differences being the Leafs’ easier Conference and their ability to collect points via shootout.

Results
FINAL MTL (6) - DAL (4)
FINAL DET (5) - DAL (1)
FINAL DAL (3) - NYI (7)
FINAL DAL (0) - NJD (1)
FINAL DAL (2) - NYR (3)
FINAL NYI (4) - DAL (2)
FINAL EDM (2) - DAL (5)
FINAL BOS (4) - DAL (2)
FINAL DAL (2) - MIN (3) OT
FINAL DAL (1) - NSH (4)
FINAL MIN (0) - DAL (4)

Toronto’s play has been remarkable of late—and specifically Phil Kessel, who has climbed up to 4th (tied) in the league for goals scored with 26.  The Leafs’ No. 1 line has now amassed a stupefying 42 points in their last 12 games together. Kessel enters tonight riding a seven-game point streak (six goals, 14 points). The Leafs have won just five games without a Kessel point this season – how will the team fare when he is eventually kept quiet?

Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the start after Reimer pitched in with a great start in Colorado. Bernier is  riding a four-game win streak (2.45GAA, .935SV%).

Toronto Maple Leafs Lineup

Leafslineup

Dallas Stars Lineup

Stars-Lineup

Lineups Courtesy of Dailyfaceoff

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Toronto welcomed the HBO crew with a 3-2 overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre.  They came out with the appropriate amount of desperation and effort for a team that has been stumbling significantly.

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Leafs vs Stars

The Leafs look to pick up their first win in five games tonight against the Dallas Stars. The Stars are 10th in the west with a 13-9-4 record, but some of below-average teams in the West would probably be good teams in the East. I caught parts of a couple of Stars games this season and this is a fast team.

Jerry D’Amigo received his first ever call up after four seasons with the Marlies and is expected to play on the Leafs’ 4th line tonight.

It seems Colton Orr is injured, and there is no word yet as to whether or not Frazer McLaren will dress for the Leafs. The Leafs waived Jerred Smithson and recalled D’Amigo though, so it seems Randy Carlyle is starting to get the idea after getting smacked over the head with the dangerous realities of icing a boat anchor fourth line, with a banged-up lineup, against a deep team like the San Jose Sharks.

Many fans have been waiting to see D’Amigo after some beastly playoff performances for the Marlies 2012 and again in 2013. He has been a 30-40 point player in the regular season, but has 21 points in 26 AHL playoff games.

D’Amigo will likely get some penalty killing time given Smithson is now with the Marlies and Tyler Bozak is out tonight. Hopefully D’Amigo has McClement and maybe Ashton as linemates to give him something to work with in terms of a cycle line.

Phil Kessel will play, Joffrey Lupul won’t. Jonathan Bernier starts. Tyler Seguin is in for the Dallas Stars. Stephane Robidas is out for a long time for the Stars.

We’ll know the lines closer to puck drop.

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Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin Shake Hands

The Leafs dropped their first December contest to extend the losing streak to five games, and six of the last seven. San Jose hurled 41 shots on the net and James Reimer was pretty good yet again, but it was another game where a poor first period meant that the Leafs were playing catchup all night.

From tonight’s Insider Trading on TSN:

McKenzie:If you’ve been hearing a lot of Vernon Fiddler trade rumours it’s because two weeks ago he went to the Dallas Stars and said he wants more ice time and wants a bigger role, and if he can’t get it with Dallas than let it be somewhere else. He’s on an expiring contract at $1.8 million and an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. There is interest in him from other teams but the Stars are wining and things are going well, so they’re not going to give him away. Keep an eye on this one.

Dreger: The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of those teams that have had discussions with Dallas about Fiddler. Toronto’s a little bit concerned about his age and the money, but the Leafs are looking for something. They’ve also had discussions on potentially trading John-Michael Liles to the Carolina Hurricanes but nothing imminent there.

When John Michael Liles is in the minors, the Leafs are pinged for 2,950,000 on the cap. If the Leafs were to deal Liles and retain half of his salary (maximum amount), they would be on the hook for 1,937,000. That doesn’t make sense to do over the length of the deal, but something like a million might. The maximum number of retained salaries is three per team, so this would put the Leafs at the max if it were to transpire. One stumbling block here is that Carolina has no more cap space than the Leafs.

When it comes to Vernon Fiddler, think of an upgrade on Smithson but a similar player type. 33 years old, veteran of nearly 600 games (has collected around 90 more points than Smithson in that time), plays around 2 minutes on the penalty kill, wins 53% of draws (this season), though surprisingly poor on the dot last season in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. The downside is Fiddler is going to cost an asset, likely a mid round pick.

Nothing looks imminent here, but it seemed worth passing along.

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After doing a great job of gathering up points over the past couple of weeks and pushing themselves well in to the playoff picture, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see the Leafs hold off on any trades going in to the deadline this Wednesday. But despite the amount of success the team has enjoyed this season, there are some glaring weak areas that could be addressed, and players may become available that could help Nonis bring this club to a higher level.

We’ve seen the Calgary Flames finally give in to a rebuild in the past week with the departure of Jarome Iginla, and the Buffalo Sabres have been known to be in fire sale mode for a little while now. As Wednesday approaches, other teams will have to make a decision on which direction they’re headed, and potentially start putting bodies on planes as well.

Brenden Morrow Leafs

As trade rumour season heats up and the Toronto Maple Leafs slip in the standings from 5th to 8th in the past week, Leafs Nation will almost certainly be whipped up into a frenzy over every name mentioned. While we aren’t a rumour website, we are within 19 days of the deadline and there has been some legitimate talk from *actual* members of the media and evidence of three teams in different conferences scouting each other heavily that don’t normally do so.

A lot can change depending on the Leafs position in the standings in the eight games before the deadline, but the Leafs figure to be, theoretically, both buyers and sellers. Granted, in a lockout-shortened season it’s hard to ascertain what the nature of the landscape will be – or if there will be much movement at all – at a deadline where so many teams will still believe in the legitimacy of their playoff hopes. A buyers-heavy market could lend itself to moving out a few free agents-to-be and not so much to adding pieces at a reasonable price.

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Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke should have uttered one phrase to explain the situation, one simple little phrase to envelope the reasoning for the Phil Kessel trade;

“Our picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.”

But in Toronto, to admit that in what’s deemed as a ‘rebuild’ would have been a PR disaster.

Despite popular opinion, he wasn’t wrong.

The world is no longer flat, it’s round .. like a full-cirle

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The Tomas Kaberle trade watch is now in effect with only 36 hours to go until this situation concludes. The rumor mill is running rampant with some high profile names and some future fan favorites, but let's dive into who is being mentioned as possible blue and white sweater bearers.

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In case you haven’t already heard, the Maple Leafs have broken off negotiations with prospect Bill Sweatt, acquired in the Versteeg trade from the Blackhawks. In a statement to the Toronto Sun, Burke explained that the club would rather keep a spot on the 50 contract limit open than continue discussions with Sweatt. As the talks continued to stall, the Leafs likely turned and upped their offer to Marcel Mueller, whose ELC contract value sits at $1.12 million. Sweatt is likely looking for a figure close to Blake Wheeler’s $2.825 cap hit as a 4-year college free agent, which is a steep price to pay for a player with speed but limited offensive upside.

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It’s around 2PM eastern time, meaning National Hockey League GM’s are likely getting ready to juggle their BlackBerry’s while getting set to sit down for lunch at a local Los Angeles hot spot.  With the many fantastic views and atmosphere, it may be the last relaxing moment of the day for these GM’s.

And most wouldn’t have it any other way.

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The NHL announced this morning the full order of selections for the 201o NHL Entry Draft.  While it is widely known that the Toronto Maple Leafs do not have a first or second round pick, they will select six times in this year’s draft.  Carolina leads the way with 11 selections, the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers are close behind with 10 picks.

The San Jose Sharks and the Dallas Stars hang at the other end of the spectrum, with only four picks at this year’s draft thus far.

Here are the order of selections for the Toronto Maple Leafs:

Round 3: 62nd overall

Round 4: 112

Round 5: 122

Round 5: 144

Round 7: 182

Round 7: 202

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Whichever way you cut it, the Leafs endured a torrid season that no statistical tinkering can mend. Regardless, if there is one thing most opposing NHL fans can agree on it’s the increasing need for an overhaul in the leagues points’ structure and the farcical awarding of points in the overall standings.

Where once every game had two points at stake, either by means of two for the win or split after an OT tie, the inclusion of an extra point for teams losing in OT or, more prevalently, after the shootout, has spawned an lopsided points structure that favours teams and coaches who adopt an cautious approach toward the end of regulation time that is the polar opposite of what was originally intended.

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Brian Burke has picked up yet another wallet. According to a Finnish report, the Toronto Maple Leafs have agreed to terms on a two year deal with Finnish free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnäs. Jussi is still just 22 years of age, and is coming off a stellar year in the Finnish SM-Liiga in which he posted a 2.50 GAA and a 0.929 SV%. Rynnäs is still at least a couple years away from being NHL-ready, and will start next season splitting time with James Reimer for the Toronto Marlies. Jussi was arguably this year’s most coveted free agent goaltender, along with NCAA netminder Ben Scrivens, whom the Leafs had also been linked to over the past couple weeks.

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Some reading material for your weekend enjoyment:

- The boys over at PPP provide us with a nice piece about European free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnas. The 6’5 22 year old is coming off an impressive season in the Finnish Elite League, posting a 2.50 GAA to go along with a league-best 0.929 SV%. For comparison’s sake: Mikka Kiprusoff posted a 1.86 GAA and 0.936 SV% during his age 22-23 season in the SM-Liiga. Jussi is in the midst of a five city North American tour, with Toronto not being one of the destinations. However, Burke and Nonis have both made the trip out to Helsinki and later brought Francois Allaire along to speak with Rynnas during his stopover in Montreal. Rynnas is not as highly regarded as Gustavsson was last offseason, and will likely be playing for an AHL team next season. The scouting report on him is that he’s a big guy who can struggle at times with rebound control and positioning, much like our own Gustavsson, and his style of play has been compared to that of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.

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    The Dallas Stars have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for over a week now, but the season wasn’t quite over for Mike Modano. Last night, in the last home game of the season, the Stars played host to the Anaheim Ducks in a game that will be remembered by Stars fans for a very long time.

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      It seems Wayne Gretzky's days as an NHL owner are far from over. According to the Dallas Observer, the Great One, Mike Modano and Brett Hull are looking to collectively purchase the Dallas Stars from owner Tom Hicks.

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        Just wanted to share a fantastic bit of work done by Nights, one of our many enthusiastic and intelligent readers, who evaluated how the NHL landscape would look without the first 8 games of the season during which the Maple Leafs struggled mightily. Great work!

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          The Maple Leafs deserved better in tonight’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. It was frustrating to see another strong effort come up short. The Leafs really need to start pulling out some of these close games if they want to get back into contention.

          They can’t afford to lose those games “that they deserved to win,” because it doesn’t seem like they are good enough to win the games “they should have lost.” Take a look at the Montreal Canadiens; 5 of the their 6 wins this have come in overtime or shootout. Instead of being 6-6-0, the Habs could easily be 1-6-5. However, they’ve found ways to pull out those close games. I hate to say it, but it’s a sign of a better team.

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            A variety of discussion points to kick off the weekend including the imminent departure of Justin Pogge and the Marlies goaltending situation going into next season. Is it finally James Reimer’s time to shine? Also, a quick look at the latest flurry of moves made by the Boston Bruins, and how that may affect a potential Leaf trade for the still unsigned Phil Kessel.