If the Stars hope to get right back on track after yet another demoralizing loss on the road, perhaps the Calgary Flames present the best opponent at the right time. The Flames have dropped six straight games and have scored one goal or fewer five times, being outscored 23-7 in the span. The team has fallen all the way to 9th in the Western Conference, after riding a good start to the season towards the top of the standings. Aside from the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames are the coldest team in the NHL.
Adding to the Stars' advantage is their recent 11-2-2 record at home, a complete turnaround from what transpired early in the season. It's all backwards now, with Dallas holding a distinct advantage at home and struggling mightily on the road.
Not that those stats really mean all that much when it comes to playing the Dallas Stars.
The good news is that team captain Brenden Morrow and winger Jere Lehtinen will be returning to action after missing a couple of weeks with minor injuries. While the team certainly performed admirably in their absence, you could cracks starting to form at the seams as the team's lack of depth was exploited more and more each game. While Ray Sawada, Warren Peters and the other young Stars have played hard, the team's skill and experience level have significantly dropped due to the various injuries affecting this team in January.
Morrow and Lehtinen will have to find a way to spark the team, especially now with the news that Tom Wandell is out for the season with a torn ACL. With Mike Ribeiro still out with his throat injury (although reportedly he's making a push now to get back on the ice), the Stars are facing a dearth at the center position.
With Modano and Eriksson resting from practice yesterday, it's unknown exactly what the new lines will be. Here's a good educated guess, based on the reports from yesterday:
Neal - Richards - Eriksson
Morrow - Modano - Lehtinen
Ott - Benn - Brunnstrom
Sutherby - Peterson - Barch
The third and fourth lines are completely up in the air, however, and if it were me, I'd place Petersen on the third line with Jamie Benn and Steve Ott, and have Warren Peters center the fourth line between Sutherby and Brunnstrom.
Petersen has really stepped up the past few weeks and his versatility have helped the team get past a few of these injuries. While Brunnstrom has certainly shown flashes the past few weeks since returning from the AHL, his shortcomings have been exploited and his lack of physicality have caught up to him at times. Peterson with Ott and Benn provides speed and grit, along a newfound scoring touch that could make the third line significantly dangerous.
The Stars sit just four points out of 8th in the West, yet are last in the Pacific. This is the chance for the team to FINALLY make the push forward we've been waiting for; if the Stars fail to take advantage of this home stand then the playoffs become that much more of a distant reality.
As for the Flames, they come into the game scrambling on offense and facing murmurs that Calgary could be heading into a firesale at the trade deadline. While a six game skid certainly doesn't warrant that much of a drastic action, Matchsticks & Gasoline is starting to look at who on the team could be trade targets for other teams.
With the Flames holding a plethora of young (and most times unproven) talent, the Stars could be getting a feel tonight for a player they might take a look at for helping out both this season and in the future. M&G mentions a few of the defensive prospects who could could be had, and mentions Gord Baldwin, John Negrin, Tim Erixon, TJ Brodie specifically. For a Stars organization that is sorely lacking in defensive talent (aside from Vishnevskiy), perhaps a trade for prospect depth might be in the works.
They also bring up Dustin Boyd, a streaky right-handed winger who may be offered up for a trade:
Something to the tune of "Boyd just can't seem to find a fit here". It was a similar story with Matthew Lombardi in town; good enough to tease, never capable of closing the deal. Boyd is the youngest player on the team and one of Sutter's only draft graduates to hint at an offensive upside. However, the kid has failed to find a foothold under a couple of different coaches and his underlying numbers actually back -up the bench bosses (despite my protestations). He's still relatively young and a distance away from his peak, but his utility remains low on this club and I can imagine he'd be target #1 for each and every "seller" the Flames engage at the deadline.
Might Boyd be a winger Stars fans would like to see come to Dallas?