Opening night is one of the "must attend" games for a lot of Stars fans. There's always something special and fresh about the promise of the new season and a return of the game that we love so much. In recent years we've had the Blue Jackets, the Predators, the Bruins, the Devils, the Kings... The Stars generally do well or at least pull a point out of the proceedings and a good time is had by all.
This year is different. Way different. When the schedule comes out we who frequent the American Airlines Center look in dread for Detroit Red Wings games because they are to be quite honest, annoying. The
front runners who bought Wings jerseys because they win a lot "fans" of the Red Wings bring with them their sense of entitlement and they come in very large numbers. Luckily the Stars have turned them away empty handed more often than not in recent years.
And of course if the opponent itself wasn't enough of a big deal there's this #90 fellow on their team. I think his name is Mike Modano(?)
The last time we saw hockey that counted at the AAC there wasn't a dry eye in the house as Modano made the perfect exit in dramatic fashion. Or so we thought. He returns tonight with a horde of media to a reception that will surely be warm, but for what reason?
I said last night on the podcast that beyond people cheering for Mike, the player they love and claim as their own, there will be people cheering loudly for the wrong reason. They will be loud in a demonstration to the front office (or rather against the front office) that they do not approve of the way the Modano situation was handled. I hope I am wrong. It will be fun to see. I will be cheering for Mike as a thank you.
If he scores a goal, however, there should be no cheering on our part, Stars fans. He's still a wing.
Much more from morning skate after the jump...
The distractions of Modano aside, the Stars have a very specific set of problems to deal with tonight and cannot worry about any of circus in the periphery.
Job #1 is figuring out to replace Jamie Benn and the structure of the lines that his presence brings. We talked about a balanced scoring attack spanning three lines in the first two games: Is that the case without Benn?
Coach Crawford was coy in the morning skate about whether Barch of Brunnstrom would be in the lineup. He may not have made that determination yet. So let's assume the following for now:
Neal- Richards- Eriksson
That Ott and Sutherby line might be fun to watch and we'll assume for now they will get some pretty important checking duties as the game wears on.
The most important part of tonight is to stay out of the box. The penalty kill was a sore spot over the weekend and they worked on it in practice but as they say, the only sure way is abstinence. (Or is that about something else?) Anyway, stay out of the box, fellas!
Marc Crawford said this morning that he feels the team played better defensively up in New York than their record shows. This is a golden opportunity to prove it against what has probably been the best team in the West the first week of the season.
The defense will not change (sorry Woywitka) and Kari Lehtonen will be in net.
Jamie Benn could play on Saturday but Monday is a more realistic target if I had to bet on it.
The Red Wings:
The Wings are 2-0-1, they've killed penalties to the tune of 90% this season, and they're only allowing 2.00 GA/G. Apart from some difficulties with the Avalanche on Tuesday night they have kept pucks out of the net and their excellent defensive forwards will look to do the same to the Stars tonight.
They do have a few injury concerns coming into tonight's game. Brian Rafalski, D, had his knee scoped this week and is expected to miss three to four weeks. Kris Draper will not play (groin) and neither will Jonathan Ericsson (back) based on what I heard this morning.
Mike Modano has had a good game, a bad game, and a mediocre game by all accounts around the Red Wing blogs. His minutes have been reduced even further from what they were in Dallas last year (around 14 or 15 minutes) to about 12 minutes a game with the Wings. What are the odds that those numbers go up a little tonight? Think he might lurk low on that right wing circle on a Wings power play or two?
It was truly odd seeing him out there skating in the white sweater with the wheel on it today. I really did not care for it a bit as a fan, but what can you do.
Check out Winging it in Motown for the opposing views tonight, and we hope to see you in the GDT during play.