In what seems like a weekly tradition now, the Coyotes and Stars will meet up for the third time in 14 days. Dallas enters play on this final day before the Olympic break in 9th place, one point behind 8th place Calgary. They're tied with the Red Wings, and just barely ahead of the Ducks and Blues. The outcomes of all the NHL action tonight can propel Dallas to 8th place, or as low as 11th.
Obviously the Stars need to win their game against the Coyotes, and it doesn't matter if it's in regulation or not. Phoenix is too far ahead. The Red Wings need to lose to the Senators in Detroit, and the Ducks need to beat the Flames on the road in Calgary. Those would need to happen in regulation, and Dallas could find themselves sitting in a very tenuous 8th place for the next 17 days. A loss in Phoenix and a Flames win would see the Stars 3 points back once again with multiple teams to hurdle. We called the win against Calgary the biggest of the year, but this would be bigger. They'll all be huge from here on out.
Here's the catch: Dallas has not won consecutive road games since October, and that was with a home game in between. They have not won back-to-back games on the road this season.
In a strange twist to the seemingly weekly routine, Dave Tippett did use Ilya Bryzgalov against Colorado last night in their 2-1 loss to the Avs. Ordinarily I'd say there is a good chance we'd see their backup netminder, but with no games until March, they may play him back-to-back anyway.
Follow the jump for more on both teams and an injury report...
The good news for Dallas, who had struggled mightily against the Coyotes this season until last weeks 4-0 win, is that Coyote-killer Mike Ribeiro is back in the lineup. Ribeiro has three goals in two games since returning from his throat contusion. According to Mike Heika, Mike has 28 points in 26 career games against Phoenix.
The Stars have only allowed one power play goal in their last 4 games, and the Coyotes have the 28th ranked power play in the league.
Marty Turco will make his 6th consecutive start for the Stars. He has allowed 7 goals in his last 5 games, one of them to Brenden Morrow. That's good for a (1.40) GAA. Despite acquiring a third goaltender on Tuesday night, the Stars are playing with supreme confidence in front of Turco right now.
Still, you wonder if that's changed after yesterday. We haven't heard anything from Phoenix, but supposedly Kari Lehtonen was to join the Stars in Arizona and participate in the morning skate. I don't know if that's a move I would make with Marty and the guys rolling like they are right now. (and I'm not sure it's actually happened yet. We'll update you if word comes). The idea just seem too awkward.
Lines lately have been:
But with Jere Lehtinen leaving Thursday's game, and recently claimed right wing Brandon Segal supposedly in Phoenix to meet the Stars, your guess is as good as mine until we get a report from morning skate.
Phoenix lost a frustrating game in Denver last night after they were whistled for 4 minor penalties in the third period, two of which ended power plays of their own. Evidently some of the calls were of the unsavory nature and had the players and coaches incensed.
I expect the Coyotes to be in a nasty mood tonight when they take on the Dallas Stars at Jobing.com Arena at 6 p.m. in the final game before the Olympic break.
The Coyotes are coming off a 2-1 loss at Colorado, one in which their chances were compromised when they were called for two penalties in the final two minutes; other penalties they thought were questionable just added to the frustration -- and they need somebody to take it out on.
The power play continues to be a nagging problem. The Coyotes were 0-for-7 against on Friday night.
The split on the two-game road trip pushed the Coyotes to 79 points, which ties thier output of a season ago. This will be the third meeting in two weeks between the Coyotes and Stars.
The Coyotes are fourth in the Western Conferernce and could go into the break with a 15-point cushion over the ninth-ranked team depending on the outcomes of the Calgary-Anaheim and Detroit-Ottawa games.