The Dallas Stars recently sat on top of the ridiculously tight Western Conference standings and they got their thanks to their ability to string some wins together on the road in the west. Victories in San Jose, Columbus and Detroit got them to where they are, but a continuation of poor play (losses at home to Calgary and Phoenix) could see them give it all back in a week's time ere the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve Friday night.
The Coyotes played a tight, conservative, defensive game against the Stars on Sunday night but the Predators didn't need to see it to formulate their plan of attack (or lack thereof). They defeated the Stars in similar fashion at the AAC in October by a score of 1-0, and as such are well versed in keeping the Stars off the score sheet. This will mark only the teams second meeting this year.
Illness and uncertainty masks the Stars lineup as of late Monday night. Nick Grossman and Tom Wandell missed Sunday's game with illness and were little better the day after, unsure or not whether they would even make the trip. Dallas called up Aaron Gagnon as a precaution.
Nashville is a strong opponent, though a little streaky. They recently completed an 8-0-1 run and could start another here tonight against the Stars if precautions aren't taken. The Preds have earned points in 13 of 16 home games. With Detroit coming tomorrow night, this is a tough place to right the ship but that's the challenge that presents itself...
Continued after the jump...
As usual, Marc Crawford was coy about his starting netminders in this back to back set, and he's surprised us before. My guess (and a wild guess it is) is that Lehtonen holds the fort down on the road in hopes of weathering an early storm, and then Raycroft, who beat the Wings last week and who has played very well at home, will get the start on Wednesday.
I am likely very wrong, however, because that's how it goes. Sound off in the comments on who you'd start in each game.
If Grossman is unable to play again, Robidas will likely see time with Fistric again and Daley/Woywitka and Skrastins/Niskanen will be preserved. The penalty kill could have missed Grossman more than it did on Sunday, but to their credit (and tired, tired legs of Skrastins and Robidas) they kept a clean sheet. Still, I think Stars fans would feel better about having "Grossy" back in the lineup.
The Coyotes DOMINATED the Stars in the faceoff circle on Sunday, particularly in the offensive zone where Dallas won just a stunning 7 of 25 draws. Offensive zone draws are supposed to be ready made opportunities. The percentage must come back up if they're to take advantage and boost their offense that's tallied only 3 total goals in their last two games, on home ice no less.
Nashville will try to tell you they're having a rough time and that they're the underdogs tonight (much like Canadians will try to convince you their junior team isn't the favorite in the WJC with 15 first round picks on their squad), but we know better. Nashville recently went 8-0-1 in nine games. I don't know when the last time Dallas did that but I'd wager gas was $1.16 a gallon when it happened. Don't sleep on the Preds.
That being said they have some injury concerns coming into tonight's game. According to NHL.com...
However, they still have two healthy, contributing goaltenders. Jason Labarbera proved on Sunday that's all a team needs against Dallas if things fall right.
Meanwhile, shrouded in some degree of secrecy, Jordin Tootoo has left the team to get some help for... something?
NEW YORK/TORONTO (December 27, 2010) -- The National Hockey League Players' Association and the National Hockey League announced today that forward Jordin Tootoo of the Nashville Predators has voluntarily entered in-patient care as part of the Joint NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH).
Tootoo's care will be administered by SABH Program Doctors Dave Lewis (NHL) and Brian Shaw (NHLPA). Tootoo will continue to receive his full salary and benefits and will have no penalty imposed, provided he complies with his prescribed treatment and follow-up care program.
There will be no further comment.
Keep your jokes to yourself on this one. It sounds serious.