To say the Sharks are looking for retribution against the Dallas Stars on Thursday night might be a bit of a misnomer. At this point they might just be looking for retribution against which ever team happens to be standing in their path after the team blew another lead and lost 3-2 to Nashville on Wednesday night before flying to Dallas.
San Jose led the Predators with less than four minutes to play and it was looking like they would gain two points on the Stars in the Pacific Division, but two very quick, very last minute Nashville goals left the Sharks looking at the wrong end of another one goal game and with no OTL points to show for it this time. Add to that the late travel and back to back in Dallas and the Stars should have an advantage in rest, but the Sharks could make up for that in shear determination and anger after two losses already this week.
The Stars first home game against the Sharks started off well enough with a 2-0 lead and the power play clicking, but San Jose stormed back and eventually took a commanding 4-2 lead, necessitating third period heroics by Mike Ribeiro and an overtime victory that sent the Sharks packing 5-4.
Dallas has won both meetings but has surrendered a point to SJ in each. The AAC has been practically impenetrable this year with the Stars not having lost in regulation on home ice since October 28th. They'll hope to keep that incredible streak going tonight.
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To say Dallas has battled injuries this year would be a misnomer. Quite the opposite, in fact, as their core group of talented forwards has been unscathed through 30 games (knock on wood.) Nevertheless it's prudent on this day to say that the Stars are "getting healthy."
Toby Petersen and Krys Barch both look like options for tonight and as such Aaron Gagnon has been sent back to Cedar Park. Bumps and bruises along the way for Trevor Daley turned out to be nothing serious and Mark Fistric made his return to the lineup on Monday.
That just leaves Kari Lehtonen, who had a good practice on Wednesday. It is hoped he will be back in net tonight, making a completely healthy Stars lineup once again after they weathered all these minor bumps and bruises. They're sufficiently confident in Kari that they sent Bachman back to Cedar Park as well.
Dallas skate with the Sharks quite well in San Jose on Monday and will do so again tonight having the benefit of last-change and an opponent that's on a back to back. "Jump on them early" is a refrain we've heard often this year but a careful game plan against a dangerous team is what's probably required in this spot. Sometimes the "simple road game" mentality is best. It will be interesting to see how Dallas comes out given their tentative starts in November and December.
San Jose is 1-2-2 on the second night of back to backs this year. The one win came against Edmonton and one of the OTL's came in Dallas in mid-November.
They surrender just over four a game on b2b's and have been out-scored 21-13 overall in that situation, but you have to think they're going to throw their best punch at the Stars tonight after the week they've had. This is a team who thinks the Pacific is theirs to lose and it's still early enough that it could still be the case. Prepare for a real fight tonight.
Dallas will likely see Antero Niittymaki tonight. The 30 year old is an impressive 9-3-3 on the year but has a pretty average save % of .908. This would be only his second start in December. His last one was a very impressive win in Philly, so he's no stranger to difficult spots on the road.
From the AP recap of their action last night:
San Jose coach Todd McLellan admitted his team didn't see the rally coming. The third goal was the one that made him the angriest.
"Nashville is a good hockey team and they are going to push," McLellan said. "I thought we made a few soft plays in the neutral zone that allowed them to come into our zone in the third period.
"Even after it goes 2-2 we should have enough poise and enough composure to manage the game properly to get it to overtime and see what happens there. Our game management was poor at the end. It's unacceptable."
Nashville coach Barry Trotz was also preparing for overtime when Kostitsyn scored.
"I don't know if you think about getting the next goal," Trotz said. "We just wanted to be really strong. There wasn't a whole lot of time on the clock. So you just want to come back after that goal with some good momentum."
The Sharks, who entered the game with the NHL's fourth-most effective power play, had one last chance to gain momentum. With 1:52 left, the Sharks went on the power play when Nashville's Jordin Tootoo shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty.
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We look forward to seeing you here on our GDT tonight for some good Stars conversation.