Gameday Preview: Detroit Red Wings @ Dallas Stars (2:00p CST)


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Detroit Red Wings (18-11-5, 8th in the West)
@ Dallas Stars (14-9-11, 10th in the West)

Saturday, Dec 19, 2009, 2:00 PM CST
American Airlines Center

Local TV: KDFI My 27
Online Radio: DallasStars.com

Opponent's Blog: Winging It In Motown

Quick Note: I will be joining Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com during today's game for a live chat over at his ESPN Dallas Stars blog. The game day thread will be open as usual, and I'll be splitting my time between the two. Feel free to stop by and say hello.

Complete Coverage >


Critical mass

-noun
1. Physics. the amount of a given fissionable material necessary to sustain a chain reaction at a constant rate.
2. An amount necessary or sufficient to have a significant effect or to achieve a result.

Frustration among Dallas Stars fans is now at it's highest point since 2002, when the team missed the playoffs and Ken Hitchcock moved on. The Stars have developed an uncanny ability to find ways to lose and it's never the same thing on any given night. Some games this team possesses one of the most potent offensive attacks you'll find in the NHL while other times the team struggles to get more than two goals a game. Marty Turco has had some of his best games of his career this season, yet has done little to prove that he belongs in Dallas long term and has rebounded completely from his disappointing performance of 2008-09.

Despite these setbacks and overwhelming anger towards the product on the ice, it becomes increasingly important to remember that patience must be maintained through this dark period in the season. It's easy to say and tough to follow through on, but it's good to remember that this is a young team that is still building experience playing in new system. Unfortunately, those reasons and excuses can only last for so long.

We have now approached a crossroads in the Dallas Stars season. Down one path lies the route to mediocrity and obscurity, to the land of underachieving teams constantly locked in a battle to build a winner; down the other is a path that leads to progress and improvement. No one is expecting the Dallas Stars to suddenly morph into Stanley Cup contenders in month; fans will gladly take a return to fundamentally sound hockey and at the very least a few regulation wins. At this point in the season we've started to truly learn what the Stars are all about as a team and that is one devoid of identity and lacking a solid and established core of leadership.

That's not to say there isn't time to turn things around and in the right direction, because there is still over 40 games to go. Right now, on December 18, fans will just be content with solid effort and execution and somehow finding a way to get a win.

After the jump, injury news for both the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings.

The Dallas Stars:

Mike Heika is reporting that both Trevor Daley (shoulder) and Mark Fistric (concussion), are out until at least Christmas and chances are that it could be longer for the two. In the meantime, the Stars have placed Daley on injured reserve and have recalled Maxime Fortunus from the AHL. Fortunus was recalled once before but ended up a healthy scratch; today will mark his NHL debut.

"Maxime has warranted an opportunity to play at the National Hockey League level," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "He had a great training camp for us, and he's played very effectively at the minor-league level. Their defense has been the best part of their game. They're doing it with strong defensive play, and we're rewarding a guy who has been a leader in that department."

 

"We're very focused on being good in our D zone," Fortunus said of the Texas Stars. "That's what wins you games, and that's where you have to get your offense from. Playing good defense is a big part of my game."

While you like to think that Daley is the more valuable of the two, it's Fistric's injury that could potentially hurt the most. Fistric was one of the few defenseman actually playing at a solid level lately and had been spending considerable time on the penalty kill. WIth Daley and Fistric out, the Stars went from needing a flashy defenseman for a couple games to needing a solid and intelligent defenseman for a long yet important stretch of games.

Fortunus is a gritty, determined player who can get physical if needed. He also has a booming shot from the point. Fortunus is a player that had to work his way up the minor league ranks and wasn't drafted high out of juniors (he wasn't drafted at all actually). He's scratched and clawed his way up to get the chance to make his debut, and chances are that this callup could be an audition for a more permanent role.

The Stars' defense knows that it's shorthanded now, but must find a way to survive through this injury issues. The Stars have thankfully avoided injury problems this season, but now starts the true test for the team as they are faced with several injuries to a defensive corps that has struggled all season to contain opposing offenses.

"We have to figure it out and take care of it," defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "I see it as an opportunity for some players. When it happened with me a couple years back and [Philippe] Boucher and [Sergei] Zubov were out, I had to look at it as a chance to step up. That's what our players have to do now."

The first player on that list is probably Matt Niskanen. The 23-year-old defenseman will get opportunities he hasn't faced this season. Yet, when presented with those challenges Thursday, Niskanen made mistakes.

"The last couple of games haven't been good," he said of outings in which the Stars played with five defensemen for much of the game. "But I have to shake that off and step up now."

The Detroit Red Wings;

The Red Wings are coming off a 3-0 dismantling of Tampa Bay and look to expand their winning streak to five this afternoon against the Stars. The big news out of Detroit is that they have somehow found a way to win despite missing five regular starters, all who will be out tonight. Additionally, Henrik Zetterberg will be out for two weeks with a shoulder injury.

Mr. Norris Trophy has the details:

From early reports, Henrik Zetterberg will be out two weeks at the least with a slightly separated shoulder. Zetterberg was absolutely rocked on clean hit from Mattias Ohlund and left the game last night.

Zetterberg leads Detroit in scoring with 32 points (10 G, 22 A) and has been a vital part of the success despite the other injuries this year. The loss for two weeks will be huge as the Wings have numerous games against Central Division opponents. Zetterberg would have been a big help in making up ground but the Wings will have to do without him.

Filling his spot? If Darren Helm can return from his injury he's likely to fill the starting spot (not on Z's line probably, but just the vacancy). However, if Helm is unable to return, the Wings may need to call up another Grand Rapids player to fill the spot. We'll keep you posted on the injury and replacement process as it happens.

Amazingly, the Stars are 5th in the NHL in scoring offense while the Red Wings are 20th. The Stars' power play has been great lately, but it's the goaltending and defense that has truly set these two teams apart. The Stars have fallen to a measly 2.88 GAA (while averaging 2.91 goals per game), while the Red Wings are 8th at 2.53. Today will be a great test of the Stars on home ice, against a team that has used it's defense and netminding to win game after game but is seriously depleted on offense.

Key Injuries:

Dallas: D Trevor Daley (shoulder) and D Mark Fistric (concussion) are out.

Detroit:   F Henrik Zetterberg (shoulder), F Johan Franzen (knee), F Valtteri Filppula (wrist), F Dan Cleary (shoulder), D Niklas Kronwall (knee), F Jason Williams (leg) and D Andreas Lilja (concussion) are out.

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