The Stars start a three game road swing tonight in Columbus as they take on the Blue Jackets at 6:00pm CST. It will be the third time these clubs have met this season, but the first in front of Blue Jacket fans. You might recall these teams have been building a little bit of a history as of late, the majority of which involves James Neal. I retold this story at Christmas time, and you can get the details here. The bad blood and revenge motives we thought would dominate that late December meeting did not materialize, as the Jackets were in the middle of a dire stretch of hockey and could ill afford distractions such. Now the Stars find themselves in the same mess this go around, desperately needing a win away from Dallas.
That 10,000 pound elephant you spot in the Columbus stands tonight on television is the fact that the Stars have only 1 win in their last 10 road games. They've managed three total goals in their last three away from the American Airlines Center, and face a Columbus group that's confident after a sweep of Alberta.
The Blue Jackets are averaging 3.00 goals a game in the new year, a large improvement over their last 11 games of 2009 that saw them score just 15 goals (1.36 GPG). Despite their positions in the standings, the Jackets enter the game with statistical edges over Dallas in PP%, PK% and faceoff %.
Follow the jump for a look at both teams and an injury report...
Dallas had a short practice on Saturday because of an early plane to Columbus. Brad Richads and Stephane Robidas had the day off to rest, and as such we got no reports of new line combinations or shakeups. The lineup is expected to look like this:
Though, with the way Marty Turco has played in the last two games, anything is possible at the goaltender position tonight.
The Stars will play their second game without Mike Ribeiro, who has yet to return from New York. I don't think Ribeiro's absence was felt fully in the win over the Islanders on Friday. The game featured almost no penalty killing for the Stars, something they rely on Ribs to do this season. It featured even less PP time for the Stars, an area where I feel his presence will be missed the most. The Blue Jackets have the league's #8 ranked power play, so staying out of the box and winning the special teams battle without Mike Ribeiro will be key to victory. Like Razor always says: Special teams and goaltending.
Nick Grossman is on the trip with the Stars, but his status on IR renders him ineligible to play until Thursday in beautiful, sunny Montreal.
The Blue Jackets:
The Blue Jackets will be without defenseman Kris Russell for tonight's game vs. Dallas. Russell has the dreaded "lower body" injury, but it doesn't appear to be serious. He could dress on Tuesday vs. St. Louis.
Fredrik Modin has a bruised foot, suffered when he blocked a shot vs. Vancouver on Tuesday. Initial x-rays came back negative, but there are more tests coming today to determine if there's a bone break.
"We're taking it to a different level with the tests today," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Saw Modin only briefly today, but he's limping noticeably.
Here are the lines:
F1: Kristian Huselius -- R.J. Umberger -- Rick Nash
F2: Raffi Torres -- Antoine Vermette -- Jake Voracek
F3: Alexandre Picard -- Derick Brassard -- Chris Clark
F4: Andrew Murray -- Sammy Pahlsson -- Jared Boll
... and pairs:
D1: Jan Hejda -- Mike Commodore
D2: Fedor Tyutin -- Anton Stralman
D3: Mathieu Roy -- Milan Jurcina
Dallas has not been able to keep Rick Nash off the scoreboard in their first two meetings in Texas. Now with the Jackets getting the last change, and Grossman out on D, I expect Nash to be even more effective tonight.
Dallas: Ribeiro (throat contusion), Nick Grossman (knee)