Old adversary for Toskala, Bell

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

DALLAS -- Mark Bell and Vesa Toskala are already hard at work on this road trip, appraising Maple Leafs' teammates and coaches of what to expect from the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes.

The two recent Western Conference veterans have the best first-hand knowldege of the back-to-back opponents. Ex-San Jose Shark Toskala will get one and possibly both starts in goal, though coach Paul Maurice puts a lot of stock in how his goalies fare against certain teams.

In that respect, Andrew Raycroft's 2-0 record, one shutout and 0.50 goals-against average against the Stars compares favourably to Toskala's 5-4, 2.48 numbers. Raycroft was a Boston Bruin when he previously faced Dallas.

Toskala would likely be just as comfortable taking on the Coyotes, against which he's a stellar 8-2, 2.25.

Bell, who also played for the Sharks last year after five seasons in the West with the Chicago Blackhawks, predicts the Leafs will have their hands full tonight with either Mike Smith or Marty Turco in goal. Rookie Smith, a junior teammate of Raycroft's, played the last three, all victories.

"Turco is like (New Jersey's) Marty Brodeur the way he handles the puck and as funny as it sounds, he's the key to their offence the way he can move the play up ice," Bell said. "And you know Sergei Zubov is going to play 30 minutes."

Dallas is 3-0-2 since replacing Doug Armstrong as general manager with Les Jackson and Brett Hull.

But the Coyotes, scraping the bottom of the conference are a much harder team to figure with a constantly changing cast.

"They just picked up (Anaheim's) Ilja Bryzgalov so their stronger in goal," Bell said.

Though Wayne Gretzky has coached the Coyotes a couple of years, it still takes some getting used to for opponents seeing him behind the bench.

"I grew up watching him as my idol as a lot of players did," Bell said. "It was strange at first to hear him back there getting into it and raising his voice, but it's great (that he's intense)."


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