Brace yourselves. The Dallas Stars are going back out on the road tonight to face the Vancouver Canucks. Allow me to reset, as it's been a full seven days since we've had to recount any of these horrific statistics: The Dallas Stars have lost 9 straight road games, and 12 of 13 overall. That's a (.077) points percentage. Meanwhile they've won 7 of their last 9 home games, and have points 13 of their last 15 at the AAC overall. That's a points percentage of (.766). To say they've played 10 times better at home than on the road might sound like a stretch, but the math supports it.
In three meetings between the two this year, Dallas has earned a 1-1-1 record. The first trip to Vancouver early in the season saw Jamie Benn score his first NHL goal in the late stages of the third period to force overtime. With a depleted forward group, the Stars could use some more timely goal scoring from Benn if they are to rid themselves of their road demons tonight in British Columbia.
We talked about possible reasons for their road struggles last night on Defending Big D Live (download the show here). The Stars seem to suffer from matchup problems away from home as the home team gets the last line change. With Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro and Jere Lehtinen hurt, the Brad Richards line is bound to get all of the defensive attention of the Canucks tonight. Faceoffs and special teams have also been areas of concern on the road for the Stars, most notably the penalty kill which has been 65% in the month of January.
Amid rampant speculation that the Marty Turco era in Dallas might be reaching it's conclusion, (emphasis on 'speculation') Alex Auld will make his third consecutive start tonight, having helped lead the Stars to back to back home wins over the Red Wings and the Wild. Was Alex Auld or playing at home a bigger factor in the two victories? Perhaps we'll find out tonight.
Follow the jump for a look at the lines, some Vancouver coverage from around the web, and an injury report...
The Dallas offense has produced 9 goals in their last 6 road games, getting shutout twice in that span. Without a couple of Steve Ott garbage time goals against Philadelphia that number is even worse. Offense will once again be an area of concern as the Stars once again potentially face elite goaltending in Roberto Luongo, though Vancouver could start their backup Cory Schneider in this back-to-back situation.
With Alain Vigneault getting the matchups he wants against the Richards/Eriksson/Neal line, it will be up to the power play to pace the Stars tonight, and additional secondary scoring would be a huge boost. Tom Wandell went pointless in 22 of 23 games before adding a goal and an assist in the two game home stand. If he can continue to contribute offensively it would go a long way toward helping Dallas get a much needed road win.
No Marc Crawford today. He went up to Vancouver early to spend some time with his family (who still live up there).
Charlie Huddy ran the practice.
Brenden Morrow (upper body injury) skated, but will not play Thursday. He and Jere Lehtinen (upper body injury) might join the team in Colorado.
Warren Peters was there and practiced, but the lines were about the same from Monday, so it looks like he could be the odd-man out on Thursday.
What are the chances that Jamie Benn can get another big goal in Vancouver playing on that line?
The good news is that the Canucks played in Edmonton last night, and went to overtime to get their business done against the Oilers, who the Stars will play tomorrow night.
Vancouver is averaging 3.625 goals per game in January in spite of their injury problems. They're 6-2-2 in their last 10 games but have dropped two of their last three at home.
In a direct contrast to Stars fans, Canuck fans are busy discussing the quality of their road wins... (Nucks Misconduct)
But for those of you about to go into the traditional CDC line of thinking "ZOMG!!!1!!! We sHoulda kikd ther assez!!!", you all need to sit down and take your Ritalin. If you look back at some of the great teams over the years, you will discover a startling fact: They didn't win all their games 20-0!! I know, I was shocked too. I will give you a moment to wrap your head around that and meet you on the other side of the jump.
Yes the win was Zack Stortini ugly, but until they start handing out style points for wins, I will take those 2 points thank you very much. Do you think teams like Detroit over the last few years, or the Islanders and Oilers of the 80's won all their games handily? Hell no. Sometimes they found themselves trailing to teams beneath them, but were still able to get the job done. Good teams find a way to win. Did the Canucks stink up the joint last night? No, but they certainly didn't bring their A game. The Oilers were motivated, capitalized on an early break and for 40 minutes did a hell of a job getting into the shot lanes and neutralizing 5 on 5 chances. What do good teams do in those circumstances? They kill them on the power play. 3 for 4, and all of them things of beauty, as Daniel Sedin moved to within one of tying Brendan Morrison's franchise record for regular season OT goals
An ugly road win would be about the most beautiful thing in the world for the Stars fan tonight.
Dallas: Brenden Morrow (upper body), Jere Lehtinen (upper body), Mike Ribeiro (throat contusion) are out.