Stars-Maple Leafs Preview
The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the brink of matching their longest losing streak in nearly two years.
Considering their growing injury concerns, they may not be able to avoid that fate.
Toronto looks to snap a five-game skid Thursday night when it hosts the Dallas Stars.
The Maple Leafs (14-11-3) haven't lost six in a row since Feb. 18-29, 2012, and they may not be near full strength with some of their top players battling various ailments.
Phil Kessel left Wednesday's practice with an unspecified injury and it's not clear if he'll play. He hasn't missed a game and leads the team with 15 goals and 25 points.
"He said that he had enough practice," coach Randy Carlyle said. "He said that he didn't feel good in one area of his body so we let him go. He had a little tweak."
Joffrey Lupul, who has eight goals and seven assists but has missed four straight games with a groin injury, was limited in practice. Tyler Bozak was set to have an MRI after suffering an upper-body injury in Tuesday's 4-2 home loss to San Jose, and Cody Franson - who leads Toronto defensemen with 13 points - could be in danger of missing a third straight game due to a lower-body injury.
"Now it seems like every day we turn around there's another injury or there's another key piece of our lineup that's not available to us," Carlyle said. "But you've got to stand in there. ... I think it's imperative that we as a coaching staff show leadership."
The penalty kill has been a big concern for the Maple Leafs, as they've only managed to thwart 78.5 percent of opponents' chances. It's been an even bigger issue of late with Toronto surrendering eight power-play goals on 19 opportunities during the five-game skid.
The Maple Leafs fell into a 2-0 hole in the first period Tuesday after surrendering a 5-on-3 goal. They're among the league's most penalized teams, averaging 15:45 penalty minutes.
Toronto was outshot 41-30 by San Jose.
"Discipline's a huge part," said forward Mason Raymond, who scored his 10th goal. "You're killing penalties, you're not playing offense and you're playing in your own zone, so we're kind of shooting ourselves in the foot there."
Dallas (13-9-4) has been solid away from home, going 7-1-0 in its last eight, but could also be undermanned with leading goal scorer Tyler Seguin's status uncertain.
Seguin, who has 16 points and a plus-8 rating in 16 career regular-season contests against Toronto, sat out for the second straight game Tuesday with concussion-like symptoms as the Stars won 4-3 at Chicago.
They recorded a season-low 18 shots without him but got a big performance from Kari Lehtonen, who made 47 saves - the second-most of his career.
"I felt like we played defense the whole game," said forward Antoine Roussel, who converted a third-period penalty shot to put Dallas ahead. "We didn't have much energy. Our goaltender played unbelievable and kept us in the game."
Lehtonen is 1-6-1 with a 3.24 goals-against average in eight starts versus the Maple Leafs, going 0-4-0 with a 3.55 GAA in Toronto.