It's the day before Thanksgiving and Dallas Stars fans are looking for something to be thankful for as our favorite team heads to Scotiabank place to take on the 8th place Ottawa Senators. This conclusion to the Stars two game Canadian road swing follows a disappointing loss against the Leafs in which, by their own admission, the Stars did not give nearly the effort they're capable of.
A win salvages a .500 abbreviated road trip and gives fans and players alike some much needed confidence in this team's ability to go on the road and be competitive. Another loss and it's on to further lamentation of trends that are starting to resemble last season a little too much.
Dallas has scored a total of four goals in their last four road games and are 1 for 27 on the road power play this season. These stats are unsustainable over the course of an entire (road) season but you get the feeling like one (the pp) is going to have to click to save the other before things can get back to normal. The Senators penalty kill has not been great at home but the same thing was said about the Leafs and the Stars were unable to take advantage there.
Meanwhile the Sens beat one of the best teams in the league in Los Angeles on Monday night and will carry that confidence with them tonight on FS SW at 6:30pm CST...
The Stars have fallen behind 3-0 and 2-0 in their last two games and before that turned a 2-0 lead into a 4-2 deficit against the Sharks at home. They've made falling behind a habit and they can't afford to do it against the Senators who are 8-1 when scoring the first goal this year.
Dallas will try to right a wayward ship with their backup netminder tonight in Andrew Raycroft. His third start this season follows a shutout of the Buffalo Sabres and a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Avalanche. With those two extremes on his 2010-2011 resume, one would assume the truth lies somewhere between.
Why Start Raycroft? Kari Lehtonen is on a marathon pace early in the year, yes, but with a back to back coming up on the weekend Raycroft was sure to get a start anyway. Now he could find himself starting two of the next three games at a time when the team desperately needs points. Nevertheless, a shakeup could be just what Crawford has in mind after a less than satisfactory team effort in Toronto so Raycroft will be counted upon to answer the bell on the road.
A change in goal will accompany a change on defense as Mark Fistric tweaked his groin in practice on Tuesday. Jeff Woywitka will presumably be inserted into the lineup in his stead, though rookie Severin Blindenbacher was re-called from the Texas Stars as a precautionary measure.
Not having seen the Sens play a second of hockey this season, I feel uncomfortable telling you anything about them, so let's see what the schedule reveals. They beat the Kings on Monday. Always impressive, but further researches show that the Kings badly out-shot them and had two goals called back by officiating:
To be honest, the Senators could have lost 4-3 tonight if a couple of calls went the Kings' way. There were two Kings goals that ended up disallowed: the first was called off because the net had been helped off its moorings by Matt Carkner, while the second was a Ryan Smyth tip-in with 3 seconds left in the game that was ruled a high-stick on the ice, and no camera angle could conclusively prove otherwise. If I was a Kings fan, I'd be pretty irate tonight.
Add to this the fact that the Sens had lost their previous three games by a combined score of 17-4 (!!) and we've got ourselves a bit of a conundrum. Are they a team that can't score goals or are they a team that can beat the Kings, something the Stars have failed to do twice already this year?
They've won three of their last four at home and their goal scoring is much improved there. In other words they might be the Eastern Conference version of the Dallas Stars.
What to expect tonight? Your guess is as good as mine.