|(Credit: Texas Stars)|
The last time the Toronto Marlies came to town, this was a very different Texas team. The Stars were heading back to Ontario after losing 6-2 in Game 5 of the Calder Cup Final. Facing elimination, they pulled out Game 6 by a 5-2 margin but fell in game 7, 6-1.
The Marlies are still a team to beat in the Eastern Conference but have hit a skid recently. After rattling off seven straight in November, they having six wins in 16 games since then, including four losses in their last five outings. Their early successes mean they're still eight games above .500 and in playoff position as of this morning.
For a breakdown of the Marlies' most recent weekend, you can turn to Pension Plan Puppets. The Marlies got blown out by Syracuse 8-2 on Friday, won Saturday against division-leader Rochester and lost again on Sunday to Lehigh Valley. In their most recent game, here was their lineup, per PPP:
Egor Korshkov - Kalle Kossila - Pontus Aberg
Darren Archibald - Tanner MacMaster - Jeremy Bracco
Garrett Wilson - Tyler Gaudet - Nicholas Baptiste
Giovanni Fiore - Matt Read - Scott Pooley
Teemu Kivihalme - Timothy Liljegren
Kristians Rubins - Jesper Lindgren
Ben Harpur - Jordan Schmaltz
For Texas, the big story is the return of Stephen Johns. He hasn't played competitive hockey in 18 months, and the entire Stars organization is hoping the Notre Dame alumnus comes back healthy. He'd be an ideal partner for Miro Heiskanen right now. The team is not making Johns available for the media, as he is still on IR in Dallas, technically. His assignment is not a traditional conditioning assignment. As discussed yesterday, this is a bona fide injury assignment, which means he will play no more than three games for the purpose of determining if he is healthy enough to play competitively again this year. If needed, Dallas can ask for an extension.
What to expect from him? It's hard to say. He's a hard-nosed defender with a career plus-41 in the AHL. Is any of that going to come to bear on tonight's game? Personally, I would bet the Stars dress seven defensemen tonight to ease Johns into the game. It'll be a good sign if he's on a regular pairing by the third period. It'll be a great sign if Texas only dresses six on Saturday.
Injuries and callups
Caamano, Mascherin (injury)
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