Leafs, Stars set for lone Dallas meeting of season

DALLAS — The Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars have both started their respective seasons in interesting fashion.

Toronto (2-1-0, 4 points) has gotten both wins in overtime, the latest Sunday night at United Center in a free-wheeling 7-6 defeat of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The big star was John Tavares, who delivered his ninth career hat trick and first since signing with the Maple Leafs as a free agent last summer.

“A lot of momentum swings tonight (Sunday),” Tavares said postgame. “We stayed with it, no quit. Whatever adversity we faced today, I thought we responded pretty well.”

Toronto has a day off Monday and despite his team getting with the full two points Sunday evening for their first road win, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock still sees plenty to clean up.

“It was probably fun for the fans, a lot of entertainment out there,” Babcock said. “We had a lot of good plays. They were flying, we were standing there watching them at the start. I don’t know if that’s too much respect or what that was, but once we got playing I thought we did a real good job.”

This marks Toronto’s only regular-season trip to Dallas and is game two of a four-game road trip that will also take the Maple Leafs to Detroit on Thursday and Washington on Saturday to face the Stanley Cup champion Capitals.

Dallas (2-0-0, 4 points) defeated Winnipeg 5-1 at home on Saturday, giving the Stars a plus-7 goal differential (8-1) to start the season after Dallas blanked Arizona 3-0 on Thursday.

First-year Stars coach Jim Montgomery is pleased with his team’s performance thus far but remains ever vigilant for complacency creeping into their game.

“Well, when the first two games have gone as well as they have, you’ve got to focus on the details and you’ve got to make sure that you’re not getting comfortable, so the players are not getting comfortable,” Montgomery said after practice Monday.

One interesting storyline for this game for Dallas is that it will mark defenseman Connor Carrick’s first game against Toronto, who he played 130 of his 169 career NHL games for, before being traded to the Stars last week.

Carrick has three assists in his first two games with Dallas and understandably, feels the change of scenery has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s been fun. Really trying to accelerate the learning curve at this point, really trying to raise the bar in terms of expectations for myself,” Carrick said Monday. “2-0 is a good start against a strong Winnipeg team and Arizona’s improved. Now we’re playing a team with a lot of hype in Toronto.”

Tuesday’s game could also mark the season debut for Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin, out the first two games with a lower-body injury. Nichushkin was the 10th pick in the 2013 draft and played two seasons for Dallas before spending last season in the Russian KHL.

“I thought he looked good today (Monday),” Montgomery said of Nichushkin. “There is a good chance he plays tomorrow (Tuesday).”