NHL

Stars hope injured Faksa returns against Maple Leafs

DALLAS -- Last Thursday night, the Dallas Stars edged the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 at American Airlines Center in their final game before the NHL All-Star Break.

And Stars coach Lindy Ruff wants to see his team continue that momentum Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"Penalty killing was the main focus (in practice today)," Ruff said Monday. "After three days off, just trying to make sure that all the drills are high tempo, a good pace for tomorrow."

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Dallas (20-20-16) is 13-7-6 on home ice and the Stars are 4-2-2 in their past 10 games.

The Stars have battled injuries for much of the season but could get a boost from the return of young center Radek Faksa, out the past two games with a lower-body injury.

"He's a good possibility," Ruff said of Faksa. "He skated over the weekend, felt good, thought he looked good out there today, so we'll see later today. As long as he continues to feel well, he's a good possibility to play."

Dallas had one representative, forward Tyler Seguin, at Sunday's 2017 NHL All-Star Game at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Because of travel issues, Seguin did not practice Monday with his teammates.

But Seguin should return in time for the morning skate on Tuesday.

And this stretch of home games with Toronto on Tuesday plus Central Division opponents Winnipeg on Thursday and Chicago on Saturday might be crucial for the Stars' chances of making the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

Dallas currently sits three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

"It's important," Stars captain Jamie Benn said of this week. "We know where we're sitting at and every point is key from here on out.

"I feel like we've been playing pretty good hockey as of late, just not getting the results. Hopefully, we'll get the results coming up here and like I said, get six points in these next few games."

Toronto (23-15-9) heads into Tuesday's game off a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia last Thursday, a setback that snapped their 11-game point streak.

The Maple Leafs are 11-7-6 on the road and 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.

And like Dallas, Toronto could get a boost from an injured player should forward Morgan Rielly, out the past five games with an upper-body injury, return.

But per Leafs coach Mike Babcock after practice Monday, Rielly's status remains uncertain for Tuesday.

"Well, I don't have to decide until tomorrow after the skate, so we'll figure that out, but obviously if he's back, it's a boost," Babcock said of Rielly. "He's a real good hockey player."

Naturally, Rielly would like to return Tuesday, but he's leaving it up to his coaches as to whether he hits the ice against Dallas or if his return waits a bit longer.

"I'll know more tomorrow," Rielly said Monday. "I think now it's more about how the body responds. I want to do just whatever I can to come back as soon as possible, so whatever that is, I'll do."

Dallas is just 4-8-4 against the Eastern Conference this season and Ruff knows his Stars will face a big test against the Maple Leafs, who are 7-6-5 against the West, to start the second half of the season.

"Highly skilled, they got some young players that are dynamic, they can skate. Power play's been very good for them," Ruff said of Toronto. "Yeah, I expect a hard game. They've been playing a lot of tight games."