The Dallas Stars will try, for the fourth time this season, for that elusive three game win streak, and they'll do it against their former coach Dave Tippett and his 4th place Phoenix Coyotes.
We scratched our heads when Tippett accepted the job as Wayne Gretzky's replacement. The franchise's future was extraordinarily uncertain at that point and the team seemed destined to wallow in failure, no matter who the coach was. "Surely Dave can get a better gig?," we asked. Who's laughing now? Early season returns have proved true and the Coyotes are surviving the rigors of an 82 game season with relative ease. They're in position to have an opening round playoff opponent come to their barn for 4 of 7, and they've beat the Stars twice already 5-2, and 3-2. I guess Tipp knew what he was doing.
Dallas' previous 4 attempts to win their third game in a row have ended in the following: A shootout loss to Florida at home; A shootout loss to St. Louis at home; A 3-1 loss to Vancouver at home; and a 4-3 loss to Vancouver on the road. The good news for Stars fans tonight is that they catch Phoenix on the second half of a back to back. The bad news is that the Coyotes are 4-1-1 this year in the second halves of back to back situations with three of those wins coming in overtime or the shootout. (Why the Stars have played 10 back-to-backs already and the Coyotes only 6 is a question for a different day.)
Tippett cleverly started LaBarbera at home last night so Bryzgalov could perform his usual vodoo on the Stars tonight at the AAC. Alex Auld will start in goal for Dallas. He is 5-0-1 at home this season.
Follow the jump for more on both teams, lines and injury reports...
Jere Lehtinen, having gotten all of his paperwork sorted out, will be back in the lineup for the Stars. As a result, Warren Peters was sent back down to Austin despite filling in admirably in the wake of the Morrow and Lehtinen injuries. We mentioned yesterday that, from a hockey standpoint, there are other forwards we'd rather sit. You know who we mean, but the Peters deal is an unfortunate reality of living in the Tom Hicks universe. The dollar is king, and so Mr. Peters gets sent back down.
I believe his lines for Sunday's 5 p.m. game against Dave Tippett and the Phoenix Coyotes will be:
My guess is Modano gets the most playing time out of those bottom six forwards and might end up alternating with Petersen.
Interesting, considering the chemistry that Modano seems to have developed playing with Petersen.
The key to tonight's game is to grab an early lead. The Coyotes, mastering Dave Tippett's style, like to take a lead and then sit on it, or else sit back and watch you try to beat Bryzgalov and then pounce on your mistakes. In their last meeting, the Stars failed to score on several early power play chances and the Coyotes punished them for it.
Dallas started January 1-6, but with a win tonight can close it out at a very mediocre 7-8.
Phoenix has won three in a row and six of their last eight overall. The surrender only 2.53 goals per game (to the Stars 3.07). Star-killer Shane Doan has goals in three straight games coming into tonight.
Remember we're going to be joining the good people of Five For Howling during the first period, so head on over there and comment your Stars-rear off. Then return with them to Defending Big D for the second period and beyond.
The Coyotes had to go and make things interesting for the crowd at Jobing.com Arena tonight. However, in the end one period of solid play at both ends, a second period of good defense and a third where we tried to give the game away turned into a win.
The First was All Coyotes pretty much from the puck drop. Shane Doan powered through two Ranger defenders when he grabbed the lead pass out of the zone from Taylor Pyatt. He split the D and took a shot that even the Coyotes announce team thought Johnson had the save on, but it just squirted through the five hole putting the near-capacity crowd on their feet just six minutes into the game. It wouldn't take long for the Coyotes to strike again. Less than a minute later they turned a 3-on1 into aa goal as Practically the entire Lang-Boedker-Pyatt Line got behind the defense in a flash, I'm not sure how it happened, but the Rangers were just caught completely flat footed. Lang made an impressive pass to Mikkel Boedker who sped across the slot and put it past Johnson. Sami Lepisto got in on the scoring later in the period as he finally got one of his blasts to find the back of the net. It's Lepisto's first NHL goal and he's been trying really hard and had good chances. You could see how excited he was to have finally gotten one adding to the Coyotes impressive blueline offensive numbers.
Phoenix will carry that enthusiasm into this one as they try to get an emotional win for their coach. Don't think that Dave Tippett, nice as he is, wouldn't love to get a victory here and stick it to the folks that fired him. I know I would.