The officials have been criticized, the more disturbing trends have been analyzed, the net minders have been shuffled, the "merry-go-round" from Cedar Park continues and the Dallas Stars, to their credit, still hold their 2nd place standing in the Western Conference (albeit by the slimmest of margins) as they host the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:30pm on Fox Sports Southwest.
These two teams met what seems like a couple of weeks ago (Monday, November 29th) and yet the Hurricanes have played only twice between now and then, enjoying breaks of three days and five days en route to a single back-to-back in the span of ten days. It's as odd as a schedule as you'll find in December when things have generally picked up for everyone else, and you can bet the Hurricanes are chomping at the proverbial bit to get back on the ice tonight and apply what their many, many practice sessions have preached.
Dallas has suffered two disappointing losses at the hands of Central Division opponents this week, losing in a shootout to the Blue Jackets on Monday and dropping a frustrating game to the Blackhawks 4-3 (plus an extraneous empty netter with less than two seconds to play.)
With the road games still being a bit of a sore spot for this team, it's important to collect points at home tonight like they've done all season. They haven't lost in Dallas in regulation in nine games.
Come on out to the AAC tonight, folks. Recent history tells us there's a good chance you will leave one satisfied customer...
Philip Larsen, after receiving very minimal time to make his mark (only one PP for Dallas in CHI) on Wednesday has been sent back to the Texas Stars and Maxime Fortunus has been recalled to likely be the odd man out as Mark Fistric continues to make progress towards his return, which we'll hazard a guess will happen next week sometime.
The Stars, despite saying they did not want to do this again, dressed seven defensemen in Chicago and after the game Craig Ludwig cited this as a reason that not every pairing out there was comfortable and in the best position to play their best hockey. Chemistry, was the main argument there.
Defensemen aside, the real story is Kari Lehtonen and his first minor setback of the year that kept him out of his scheduled start in Chicago on Wednesday. Lehtonen experienced some tightness in his lower body (we've heard back, we've heard leg) and had to sit out the game as well as practice on Thursday. His status is unknown for Friday night but it's not unreasonable to think he will be back Saturday in Phoenix to face down Ilya Bryzgalov.
American Airlines Center offers a shelter for the Stars away from their difficult starts, officiating woes, and power play deficiencies of late on the road. We expect a hungry Stars team that wants to take care of business on home ice.
This franchise has not won in Dallas since it was called the Hartford Whalers, to let you know how long it's been since the Stars surrendered points to these guys here.
They score as much as Dallas does (2.85 G/G) but give up a pretty liberal 3.12 GA/G, so the Stars will be looking to keep that number high with their power play, which has been good at home at least.
Carolina is one of the few teams over which the Stars can claim face-off supremacy. They've won only 41.3% of their draws this season.
Lately, the Carolina Hurricanes have been starting slow and giving up the first goal.
So it's no surprise they've won just two of their past six games.
"It's tough," Canes center Brandon Sutter said. "We've had a few games now where we've had slow first periods, first 10 minutes. For whatever reason, it takes us a few shifts to get going."
Confidence can go a long way, and the Canes could use a little more of it, Carolina coach Paul Maurice said.
"Some of it is emotion," he said. "I think we're still making sure we have enough jump in our legs, that we're ready to go right from the start. Some of the games it hasn't been there. And when you've been through a stretch of some overtime losses, a couple of wins, a couple of losses, there's not as high of confidence than when you get on a bit of a run. Then, you're really pushing your game early."
Starting slow and giving up the first goal: It would be a welcome change to see the opposition do so tonight.
Give Canes Country a click for all your Hurricane needs.