The Dallas Stars will aim for their first win in the Pacific Division tonight as Dave Tippett and the Phoenix Coyotes visit the American Airlines Center at 7:30pm on Fox Sports Southwest. The Coyotes won four of six meetings with the Stars last season including their first three matchups of the year by a combined score of 12 to 6.
When asked about the difficulties the Coyotes caused his team last season Marc Crawford was complimentary, saying the Stars can use Phoenix's breakout season as an example to follow.
"We want to make sure we learn from some of the good things that they did last year," said Crawford. "They were a hard working club. Their effort and competitiveness, especially early when people didn't think they had a chance got them a lot of confidence."
The Stars are coming off two big wins at home against Eastern Conference opponents and are steadily building up their own confidence following a three game home losing streak the week before.
"We struggled with Phoenix last year," said James Neal. "It would be good to get off to a good start this season. They're a tough team to play against and it's good to have them at home for the first one."
The Stars shutout the Coyotes twice just prior to the Olympic break last year thanks to two gem performances by Marty Turco, but most nights against the Coyotes the man of the hour seems to be Ilya Bryzgalov....
Dave Tippett saved Bryzgalov especially for Dallas several times last season when Phoenix played the night before and you can bet this season will be no different but the spell he holds over the Stars might have been broken a little last season with the Stars breaking through for four and three goal nights in their last two meetings with him.
His career save percentage against the Stars is .924 with a 2.23 GAA. Kari Lehtonen has played the Coyotes only once in his career, coming away with a shootout loss.
James Neal says the plan for attacking Bryzgalov is pretty straight forward. "We have to keep skating, get traffic in front of him and just shoot the puck. If we get a good fore check and all the little things then I'm sure we'll find a way."
Neal also said the Dave Tippett game plan of sitting back and counter-attacking got them a little bit last year:
"Yeah, they waited us out a bit. The first guy to make a mistake...you were going to be at fault for it so... We just have to stick to our game plan. We've had a couple of good games here at home and it's the end of our home stand and you always want to go out on a winning note."
Kari Lehtonen tonight. Raycroft tomorrow.
I asked Marc Crawford about Terry Murray and Dave Tippett making it a point to use their number one guys against divisional opponents and he didn't seem to fussed with the idea, preferring to defer to his netminder.
"I like to give him a lot of input on games he wants; What he wants from practice time, what he wants from his goalie coach, those sorts of things. He's going to play the bulk of our games so chances are he's going to play [the division games] anyway."
The plan is for Lehtonen to play tonight and for Raycroft to play tomorrow in Colorado. Lines should be the same tonight again but Crawford said he does want to get both Barch and Woywitka in this weekend sometime, so we'll see if that all happens in Colorado or what.
I asked James Neal about his follow up to "curls for girls." He said he's going to work on something.