Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ Montreal Canadiens (6:30pm CST)



Thanks to Brandon for giving everyone a little perspective before this game preview went up. Sadly, all good things must end and we have to take a look at the facts in preparation for this one.

The Dallas Stars lost to Philadelphia for a great many reasons, but mainly, in my opinion, because of special teams failures. Penalty trouble yielded two power play goals to the Flyers and an anemic Stars power play failed to score and even allowed a short handed goal. They'll get a chance to face those same problems head on tonight against Montreal, who has the league's #1 power play (24.6%) and #7 penalty kill (84.3%).

These teams seldom meet. Their last crossing of paths was in March of last season, with the Habs taking a 3-1 decision on American Airlines Center ice. You may recall that game being especially frustrating on account of Montreal taking 9 first period minor penalties which afforded the Stars over 4 minutes of 5-on-3 power play time. Dallas managed only a single goal out of all that on their way to the loss.

Going to Montreal is always something of an event for Western Conference teams that don't make it out that way very often. Stephane Robidas has ties to the area and will have family and friends in attendance. Mike Ribeiro would certainly be a story line heading into tonight's game if not for the fact that he'll be out of the lineup until after the Olympic break with a throat contusion. I would have liked to see and hear Canadien fans reaction to him on the ice, but alas, maybe next time.

Montreal has allowed only 3 goals in 3 games on home ice this month, so the Stars could once again struggle to find their offense. (That's offense, not offence)

Our very own Brandon Worley will be in attendance tonight at the Bell Centre, so check back with us Friday or Saturday for his full account of the sights and sounds.

After the jump, a shakeup in the lines and injury updates for both teams... [Update] Jamie Benn at center tonight? Read on...

The Stars:

For 9 of the last 11 games, the Brenden Morrow/Jamie Benn/Tom Wandell experiment has been in full swing. In all that time it has produced a grand total of 3 even strength goals. Curiously, it was not something necessitated by the Ribeiro injury; Crawford created this line 7 games prior to his mishap. If reports from practice are to be believed, this combination might finally be over:

Mike Modano and Toby Petersen each were given the day off, but are expected to play Thursday against Montreal.

There was some line juggling, but it's hard to tell what we might see tomorrow with two of the centers missing.

One line that was changed was:

Morrow-Richards-Eriksson

We'll see if that materializes and where James Neal might play (possibly with Modano and Jamie Benn?)

Marc Crawford chooses to not make public his choice for goalie (which I think is code for Alex Auld is playing, but we'll have to wait and see on that).

Unfortunately for this group that seems to surrender 4 goals+ every road game, Nick Grossman is eligible to come off IR today but will not be able to go.

Fabian Brunnstrom has been recalled from the Texas Stars, and could play tonight. Where is anyone's guess. If Morrow-Richards-Eriksson is really a line, how do you see the rest of the lineup shaking out?

Update:

The lines, according Mike Heika will look like this...

Morrow-Richards-Eriksson
Neal-Benn-Lehtinen
Ott-Wandell-Brunnstrom
Sutherby-Modano-Petersen

So...what do you think about that?

The Canadiens:

In spite of their outrageous power play percentage (their opps are pretty low) they have scored the 4th fewest goals in the entire league this season with 115.

Dallas seems to be on a run of running into hot goaltenders, and tonight could be no different. Montreal keeps their poor offense afloat with penalty killing and goaltending. Carey Price will get the start tonight in net.

The Montreal Gazette gets you up to speed on the Habs...

When your team has lost three of its last four games, you have to search to find some positives. But Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin is happy with at least one aspect of his team's play heading into tonight's game against the Dallas Stars (7:30 p.m., RDS, CJAD Radio-800).

"I am more pleased with the way we're playing away from the puck," said Martin, whose team has allowed only 22 goals during an 11-game stretch since Dec. 19.

"I think we're 11th in the league, in terms of goals against and, to me, goals against is an indication of hard work. It's an indication of commitment and engagement and playing the system and I think we're better that way."

Scoring goals has been another matter. The Habs have scored only five in their last four games and they rank 26th in the league in goals scored.

"The more skills you have, the more of an ability you have to score goals but, with our team, part of the process to get goals is a willingness to get to the net, get to the dirty areas," Martin said.

That's one of the reasons why the Canadiens spent a good part of yesterday's practice working on offence and the power play with an emphasis on putting a player in front of the goaltender to serve as a screen.

Also, if you want to check out an obscenely long, but gorgeous blog post detailing a battle of netminders that will blow your hockey socks off, check out our SB Nation friends Habs Eyes On The Prize and their amazing analysis.

Injuries:

 

Dallas: Nick Grossman (knee), Mike Ribeiro (throat contusion) are out.

Montreal: Andrei Kostisyn (knee), Sergei Kostisyn (ankle) are out.

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