If the Dallas Stars are tired of all of the off-ice distractions this week, then they'll be glad to focus on a very important task at hand tonight in Calgary as they take on the Flames. Tonight they can put aside the shakeup at goal caused by the Kari Lehtonen trade, the impending Olympics, and the possible change in ownership, and grab two points from a team that is directly in their way as they try to claim one of the precious few playoff spots in the Western Conference.
The Stars have played well against the Flames this year, going 2-0-1 against them. Though Alex Auld has both of those Dallas victories, Marty Turco is expected to get the start in goal. Turco's only appearance against Calgary this season ended in an overtime loss at the American Airlines Center after Nick Grossman was unfairly awarded a delay of game penalty in the extra frame. Turco will be playing what some believe could be one of his final games in a Stars uniform. As Brandon mentioned earlier, the timing of this trade is tricky because now they're relying on a goaltender to help them in the playoff race, and he knows that he will likely not be a part of the team going forward. However, Marty Turco is the consummate professional and I think we can expect him to perform to the best of his abilities tonight.
If the Stars need inspiration for persevering through adversity and change, they need look no further than their opponents tonight. They've traded Dion Phaneuf and Olli Jokinen and have lost players to injury lately, but have been able to hang on to that #8 spot, going 3-2-1 in their last 6 games. This should be a motivated bunch tonight that wants to put some distance between themselves and the 11th place Stars.
And guess who's a Calgary Flame now? Our old friend Nik Hagman...
Follow the jump for a quick look at both teams and (possible) lines for the game...
Kari Lehtonen has passed his physicals, but has not yet joined the team. It's been reported that he will likely join them in Phoenix, perhaps taking part in the morning skate on Saturday. That will be his only interaction with the team before the Olympic break. I believe Joe Nieuwendyk mentioned a "mini-camp" that they'll have before the season ramps back up in March. That will be our first chance to take a look at Lehtonen.
Because Lehtonen is now on the roster,
and Ott is not on IR, they will not be recalling a 7th defenseman as we had previously predicted. As I type this, the Stars have placed Steve Ott on IR and claimed RW Brandon Segal off waivers from Los Angeles.
I have not heard that Mike Ribeiro felt any ill effects from his first game back in Chicago, so expect to see him out there in a similar (but expanding) role.
Lines started the last game as something like this:
Brenden Morrow spent time with that "4th" line in Wathier's place. It's unknown at this point if Crawford will play Ribeiro and Morrow together more than he did in Chicago. While it was a wide open net, Ribeiro was a boost on the PP on Tuesday and they'll need that to continue tonight.
Head over to Matchsticks and Gasoline to get a taste of Flames-dom these days:
Another performance that deteriorated as it went on left the Flames on the bad end of a 3-2 score against the Senators. It does appear that the injury news is beginning to brighten, however, as all three of Moss, Dawes and Bourque took a spin at today's optional practice. If they want to activate one of Dawes or Moss, either Bourque needs to go on IR or someone (Backlund, Lundmark) needs to be off the roster. I suspect that the Flames want to keep Backlund around through the weekend, since they're thin in the middle, so if anyone is dealt with, it might be Lundmark by process of elimination.
And because he does such a nice job, here's a little from Mike Heika on the Flames:
The Flames are 14-13-3 at home this season, and that has been a huge issue for this team. Dallas won a 5-2 game up here Oct. 9, but that was against Curtis McElhinney in net. Miikka Kiprusoff has been great lately. He is 26-18-9 on the season and ranks fourth in GAA (2.20), seventh in save percentage (.924) and has faced the fifth most shots in the league at 1,516.
The Flames' biggest problem is scoring goals. They are tied for 26th in scoring at 2.46 goals per game and rank 29th in power play goals at 34.
Niklas Hagman has a goal and two assists since joining the Flames.
They've dropped back to back close games to Tampa Bay and Ottawa. Even though they struggle to score, Kiprusoff keeps things close.