Matt Hunwick #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs defends against Jack Eichel #15 of the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on October 21, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

Elliotte Friedman speculates on a potential fit for Matt Hunwick in New York, Curtis McElhinney stops 39 of 40 shots in Tuesday’s win over Dallas, Marlies win their sixth game in their last seven, and more in the links.

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30 Thoughts: Better for Claude Julien that uncertainty is over (Sportsnet)
The Rangers have been looking for defencemen, and, when Matt Hunwick was scratched last week by Toronto, I wondered if there was a fit. He played there and he’s a popular teammate. But I’m not sure that’s a match. New York is looking for right-handed shooters, which Hunwick is not. They already have Nick Holden on the off-side. Something to keep an eye on, though.

Maple Leafs learning to rid dressing room of doubt (Sportsnet)
There is a fine line to be negotiated and the Leafs are still getting acquainted with the delicate balance. They looked a lot better in closing out the Stars than they did in Monday’s game at Brooklyn – where Toronto abandoned all defensive zone structure while blowing a late lead and losing 6-5 to the Islanders – but you get the feeling there are still some mental demons for the group to overcome.

Leafs bounce back with improved defence (TSN)
The biggest difference for the Maple Leafs defensively may have been the steady netminding they got from Curtis McElhinney. The backup stopped 39 of 40 shots and turned in the best goaltending performance Toronto has gotten since McElhinney’s last start in Philadelphia before the all-star break. As the game wore on, Toronto played more and more confidently in front of him, and every player looked sharper than they had been in a week. When he relieved Frederik Andersen in the first period of last Tuesday’s game against Dallas, he ultimately took the loss, and said after the game he was motivated for a little revenge. “It was a huge game for us, and he stepped in and played lights out again,” Tyler Bozak said of McElhinney.

Gardiner, McElhinney lead Maple Leafs past Dallas (Toronto Star)
Gardiner scored the first goal and set up the second for the Maple Leafs as Toronto beat Dallas 3-1 Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre. “He’s been real solid for us, an elite skater,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “He gets a little haywire and you have to get him back in the barn once in a while, but he’s a real talented guy who moves the puck and doesn’t seem to get in much trouble. He’s got a lot of confidence.”

Not many better than Julien, says Leafs’ Babcock (Toronto Sun)
The Leafs did player surveys on ice conditions in the early days of the Air Canada Centre, before spending thousands of dollars on technology to keep the surface hard and the building cool. But any multi-use facility with basketball and concerts has its challenges.“It’s been hit or miss here, but a lot better lately,” van Riemsdyk said of the ACC ice. “There are just so many events that it’s tough. I know they work at it and try and improve on it.”

[Paywall] The Video Room: Who’s to blame for the Leafs’ porous defence? (The Athletic)
As a video coach consistently looking to apply the eye test in more effective ways, I have a few pet peeves about the way many fans watch — and react to — hockey. The biggest one, by far, is how cause and blame are assigned on a goals against. It’s been on full display lately with the Maple Leafs’ recent defensive struggles.

Who will Vegas take from the Maple Leafs? (Toronto Star)
So the Leafs better hope that Smith — with eight games to go to qualify — stays healthy and signs. But even with him, they will have to pick one other forward to expose (barring a trade for an exposable forward). Of course, they could go the other direction and protect only four forwards, meaning they can protect four defencemen. But that makes things at forward even more intriguing.

Maple Leafs trying to perfect art of the draw (Toronto Sun)
The Stars’ lone goal resulted from a similar circumstance, as Cody Eakin beat Ben Smith in third period during a Dallas power play. “It’s not going to happen like that in the majority of games, but especially in the (offensive) zone, it’s nice to win them and create some scoring chances,” Bozak said. “It’s something I have always thought was important. You win the faceoff, you’re playing offence instead of chasing the puck around.”

James van Riemsdyk embracing role as You Can Play ambassador (Toronto Sun)
“I think that kind of stuff is important,” van Riemsdyk said Tuesday before the Leafs played the Dallas Stars. “We want to be inclusive to everyone, especially in this locker room. We have a great room and we want it to be at the point where these sorts of things aren’t a big story anymore, they should be normal. Obviously, we’re not quite there yet as a society. I know if we had someone who were to come out on this team, we’d be supportive, we would only care if they are a good teammate or a good player.”

Game #46 Review: Toronto Marlies 4 vs. Utica Comets 2 (MLHS)
Special teams proved the difference in another important victory for the Toronto Marlies over a divisional rival. A crucial two points creates separation between Toronto and Utica and also means the Marlies have leapfrogged over St. John’s IceCaps into third place in the North Division by virtue of a tiebreaker.

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