The Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping to enter the NHL’s Christmas holiday break on a positive note, as they look to end their three-game losing streak against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Tuesday night.
The two clubs are meeting for the second and final time. Toronto won an entertaining but wide open 5-3 contest at Air Canada Center on December 2 in the midst of the club’s 10-1-1 stretch, which marked the end of the club’s disciplined two-way game after the 9-2 loss to Nashville and the beginning of the Leafs playing a more wide-open offensive style, giving up more shots and playing looser defensively.
“This is an opportunity for us to give ourselves a little bit of a Christmas gift. That’s what the message is. We’ve got to go out and play the way we’re capable of playing.”Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said in Dallas Tuesday morning. “We were much better against Chicago, but the score didn’t indicate that. When you lose 4-0, it looks like you didn’t do much right, but we did a lot of things that are closer to where we need to get to and if we can get our offense a little bit more, cut down a few more turnovers and don’t give up a power play goal, it’s a different hockey game.”
Dallas has won four straight games(including a come-from-behind 6-5 shootout victory over Edmonton on Sunday) and boasts the NHL’s leading scorer in Tyler Seguin(25 goals) but has also been plagued by poor defensive play, allowing 109 goals against(27th in the NHL).
Carlyle will shuffle his lines once again since he cannot rely on line matching to get the matchups he wants on the road. Joffrey Lupul will move back onto the top line with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk shifts to the second unit with Nazem Kadri and Mike Santorelli, the third line will consist of Daniel Winnik, Peter Holland and David Clarkson and the fourth line will remain Trevor Smith between Richard Panik and David Booth.
Veteran Stephane Robidas will replace Korbinian Holzer on the blueline and will be honored by the Stars during the first period for his 11-year stint in Dallas.
“I spent most of my career here. My life was here,” Robidas said. “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.”
The goaltending matchup will be the same as it was earlier in the month, with Kari Lehtonen making the start for Dallas and Jonathan Bernier in goal for Toronto.
The Leafs and representatives for defenseman Cody Franson have not held any preliminary contract talks, according to TSN’s Jonas Siegel. The 27-year-old blueliner is having a career year offensively (5G, 16A in 32 games) and is an unrestricted free agent next summer, but the Leafs may wait until after the season to see what the market is for the right-handed shooting defenseman.
The price tag for Franson is expected to exceed $5 Million per season, which may be too pricey with the Leafs current salary structure and the contracts of Jonathan Bernier and Nazem Kadri up as well. Veteran winger Joffrey Lupul continues to be a trade possibility prior to the March trade deadline or next summer(with 2014 top pick William Nylander waiting in the wings), but defenseman Jake Gardiner is the name most often mentioned in rumored deals.
TSN’s Darren Dreger indicated on Tuesday that the Leafs are not actively shopping Gardiner, but remain open to moving him if they can get what GM Dave Nonis perceives as fair value for the 24-year-old blueliner. Based on his poor defensive play and lack of scoring(8 points in 31 games)this season, that is not likely.
Gardiner has four years remaining on a five-year, $20.25 Million deal, which provides interested teams cost certainty and term for the swift-skating blueliner, but the Leafs have to hope that Gardiner steps up his play in the second half to make him a more attractive commodity.
Don’t quit your day job, fellas!!! 🙂
The Toronto Maple Leafs would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays… with a song. https://t.co/VozwbVDpn0
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 22, 2014
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