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Game Day: Maple Leafs at Stars

Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 27, 2020. (TOM PENNINGTON/Getty Images)
Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 27, 2020. (TOM PENNINGTON/Getty Images)

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS at DALLAS STARS

Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. American Airlines Center

TV: Sportsnet RADIO: 590 AM

THE BIG MATCH-UP

RW/C Jason Spezza vs. LW Jamie Benn

Two close friends — from Spezza’s Dallas days — might not see a lot of each other head-to-head in this game, but the veteran Leaf will have a good book on Benn for the others. Big Benn will give smaller Toronto defenders a lot to handle. Spezza’s goal in Nashville gets him close to 20 points in his new fourth-line role.

FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

Rolling thunder

Both clubs had inspiring post-break starts with wins that underlined their strengths, Toronto’s on offence and in goal, Dallas with its size and overall defensive game plan that did the Leafs a huge favour in cooling off the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars have allowed the fewest goals in the league, 122 through 49 games, while the Leafs are on a run of at least four goals in seven straight road games, last accomplished early in the 1983-84 season.

Star power

The Leafs have had a good measure of success at AAC, with four wins the past five games, many of them with plenty of offence. They also have Jake Muzzin, Alexander Kerfoot and Tyson Barrie with a good amount of experience in here from Western Conference rivalries.

Fred in the red

This is not one of Frederik Andersen’s favourite teams to face, with a .894 save percentage. But his 34 stops on Monday in Nashville was a good sign for the Leafs’ final 32 games of the season. The soonest that backup Michael Hutchinson gets in again is the end of next week when the Leafs play three in four nights.

Bowness situation

For the second straight game, the Leafs play a club that like themselves, sacked its headmaster earlier in the season. Rick Bowness taking over from Jim Montgomery after non-professional conduct matters were raised. Bowness is no newcomer, having first coached against the Leafs more than 30 years ago with the original Winnipeg Jets and later, a few rounds in the Battle Of Ontario.

High five for Willy?

Toronto’s William Nylander will be going for a fifth straight game with at least a goal to extend his personal best streak.

MAPLE LEAFS GAME DAY LINES

LW C RW

Zach Hyman Auston Matthews Mitch Marner

Alex Kerfoot John Tavares William Nylander

Andreas Johnsson Pierre Engvall Kasperi Kapanen

Trevor Moore Frederik Gauthier Jason Spezza

DEFENCE PAIRINGS

Jake Muzzin Justin Holl

Travis Dermott Tyson Barrie

Rasmus Sandin Cody Ceci

GOALIES

Frederik Andersen

Michael Hutchinson

SICK BAY

D Morgan Rielly (foot)

RW/LW Ilya Mikheyev (wrist)

STARS GAME DAY LINES

LW C RW

Jamie Benn Tyler Seguin Alexander Radulov

Denis Gurianov Roope Hintz Joe Pavelski

Andrew Cogliano Radek Faksa Blake Comeau

Mattias Janmark Jason Dickinson Corey Perry

DEFENCE PAIRINGS

Esa Lindell John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen Roman Polak

Jamie Oleksiak Stephen Johns

GOALIES

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

INJURIES

C Martin Hanzal (back)

SPECIAL TEAMS

POWER PLAY

Toronto 24.1% (6th)

Dallas 19.1% (20th)

PENALTY KILLING

Toronto 76.4% (25th)

Dallas 82.8% (6th)

lhornby@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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