The Dallas Stars continue their three-game homestand against the high-flying Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. Dallas is coming off a solid 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. After a rough travel experience returning from Seattle, the victory propelled them into a playoff spot in the West.
Wedgewood Gets His First Home Start
Scott Wedgewood has been nothing but spectacular since being traded to Dallas from Arizona at the trade deadline. His first start resulted in a 47-save victory against the Carolina Hurricanes and his second saw him make the key saves needed to preserve a 5-4 Stars win in San Jose. The 29-year-old goaltender came to Dallas looking for a chance to prove his talent while supporting Jake Oettinger and helping his team make a playoff push.
“I said it on day one, I am all in with these guys to go for it,” Wedgewood said. “Whether I play five games, three games, or eight games, it doesn’t matter. If I can help in 20 minutes or 60 minutes a couple of times throughout the rest of the season. Oettinger is playing well and if I get called on or not in the playoffs. It’s not about taking a job. It is always team-first mentality for me. I obviously want to be in the net as much as possible but I am just going along for the ride here and chipping in when I can.”
For Wedgewood, this will be the first time in his career that he is a big part of a team that has the chance to make the playoffs in the NHL. He has spent most of his career with teams at the bottom of the standings or in the AHL and has noticed some differences in the day-to-day of a team battling for the postseason.
“Everyone is driving towards the same goal,” Wedgewood said in a recent phone interview. “Guys are sacrificing in situations, shot blocks, putting your body on the line to get things done and it’s nice. This is obviously what you play for. You want to win, you want a chance at a championship.”
Injuries to Denis Gurianov, Jacob Peterson, and Esa Lindell forced Dallas into some big changes throughout the lineup and some new line combinations on Tuesday. The newly connected second line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Marian Studenic found instant chemistry, Studenic recorded his first goal with Dallas, Seguin tallied two points, and Benn added an assist as they were the best line in the game overall.
“That was our best line,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “Marian was really good, and that’s probably one of Seggy’s best two-way games of the year. He competed hard at both ends. It was our best line. They were really good.”
Seguin and Benn have a long history of dynamic chemistry. However, as of late, that connection has been exactly that, history, The two skilled forwards have seen declines in production following lower-body injuries but still sit right in the middle of their prime. At just 30 (Seguin) and 32 (Benn) years old, their resurgence could take this team to an entirely new level.
“It felt good,” Seguin said. “We kind of greased it up by all three of us, and we were getting some good looks because of it. Marian, I think that was the best game I’ve seen him skate with that confidence, taking pucks to the net, so it was great.”
Leafs Scouting Report
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the better teams throughout the 2021-22 season. They sit second in the Atlantic Division, trailing only the Florida Panthers, and have the fourth-best record in the entire NHL. Currently, they are riding a 7-2-1 streak and got the best of Dallas in their last meeting on March 15 up in Toronto. The Stars struggled to get anything going, turned the puck over, and the Leafs dominated them from start to finish in a 4-0 result during their four-game road trip.
“It’s frustrating because we looked slow tonight because we kept turning the puck over,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said following the game. “Our puck management was terrible all over the ice. They looked a lot faster because their puck management was right on. Their passes were on the tape in full stride. We were putting pucks in skates, bouncing pucks over sticks.”
Tonight, the Stars look to bounce back. If they will have any success, it will come by slowing down their elite offensive players in Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Matthews leads the league with an insane 54 goals in 65 games while Marner has tallied 31 goals and 88 points on the season.
The goaltending for Toronto has been hit or miss as both Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek have had up and down seasons. Recently, it has been Campbell back in the net following an injury but both goaltenders are looking to be better to help their team break a long streak of losing in the first round of the playoffs.
- Scott Wedgwood will get his first home start. He is 2-0-0 as a Dallas Star
- Esa Lindell (lower-body), Denis Gurianov (sick), and Jacob Peterson (upper-body) all skated this morning but will not play again tonight
- Expect the same lineup that we saw against the Islanders on Tuesday
He Said It
“If you look at the three teams, one of them is going to miss,” Bowness said of the fact nine teams are basically battling for eight playoff spots. “One of them is going to have a hell of a year and miss as it sits today. That could change in four games because it’s so tight. As it stands right now there are three of us fighting for two spots. This could go right down to the final weekend and it’s probably going to do that.”
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!