The Dallas Stars treated the Leafs as long-lost friends last night, back in Texas after a three-year hiatus. Toronto is only the second Eastern Conference team to come through since last March.
"It's like Groundhog Day when you play teams in your division eight times," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said of 10 of his team's past 12 games, against Pacific Division rivals. "It energizes everyone, seeing different teams, different uniforms with different names on the back."
Said Mike Modano: "It's a nice break. We've seen (Anaheim's) Chris Pronger and (San Jose's) Joe Thornton every other day. Now our fans get to see an Eastern team and I hope that changes for everyone on the schedule next year."
While Leafs players get a little tired of the attention they draw on a daily basis, the Stars couldn't have been happier to see a big out-of-town throng drop by an otherwise routine morning skate. With yesterday being somewhat of a holiday and most the attention on the football Cowboys, the media count in the Stars' room was 10-1 in Toronto's favour.
After last night, the Leafs need a favour from the Stars. Dallas embarks on a five-game Eastern swing, playing all five Atlantic Division clubs, with a good showing bound to help the Leafs' playoff hopes.
The Leafs first visit to Glendale, Ariz., and the 17,799-seat Jobing.com Arena will be a brief one. They arrived late last night after playing Dallas and play a 5 p.m. local game against the Phoenix Coyotes that translates to 7 p.m. Eastern and the start of the Hockey Night In Canada doubleheader.
Defenceman Brendan Bell and goalie Mikael Tellqvist, both traded to the Coyotes last season, are still there in limited roles, while the players the Leafs acquired, forwards Yanic Perreault and Tyson Nash, are long gone.
Left winger Chad Kilger was held out of last night's game again with a persistent leg injury ... Centre John Mitchell has five power-play goals for the Toronto Marlies, while defenceman Bryan Muir is a team-high plus 14 ... At 24:44 of ice time a night, Bryan McCabe has passed the injured Pavel Kubina as the busiest Leaf.