The Stars have hit a bit of a rough patch lately, in case you hadn't heard. They lost to Calgary. At home. Somehow. They were shutout by the Phoenix Coyotes in a game that Ilya Brygalov did not dress for. They had the best two teams in the league (DET, VAN) roll through their building and failed to collect a single point. And while they played well in stretches of those last two games, the drop in points percentage was a bitter pill to swallow as the frustration mounts.
Luckily this is a new year. 2011. A fresh start, but the Stars go on the road for two against tough Central Division foes. Last year January was a cruel, cruel month for Dallas. Mike Ribeiro was injured and the Stars lost 7 of 8 road games they played: Something they'll look to avoid on Sunday evening.
St. Louis has won five in a row and is feeling pretty good, but Dallas has won all three meetings so far, guaranteeing them at least a 3-1 series win this year if not better.
The bad news is that the Stars have not swept a season series from a Western Conference opponent since the Oilers in 2007-2008. Including all other Western Conference season series that year, it was roughly 41 tries ago. Beating a team all 4 (or 6) times is a very hard thing to do but it's the task at hand for Dallas here tonight.
Their last trip to Scotttrade Center had a happy 2-1 ending but the Blues scored first, led after two periods, fired 36 pucks at the Dallas net and generally out-played the Stars in every way. The Stars will be looking to change the script this time at 5:00pm CST on FS SW PLUS.
More after the jump...
The good news is that the Stars are healthy. Indeed, their health has been pretty remarkable this year and is definitely a contributing factor to their good fortunes, the last 10 days excluded of course.
Kari Lehtonen has had his first real rough patch of the season, coinciding with this slump (though it's not his fault they can't kill a penalty or score many PP goals). He was beat on several shots that he could see last week, which has been a rarity for him. He carried them through October and much of November when they were out-played and now that they're slumping they'll look to him to do more of the same and break out of this little funk quickly.
When a team is going bad, a huge performance from a single man (goaltender) can turn it all around. It's an unfair bit of pressure but it's the truth.
Dallas must win the special teams battle if they're to get back to their usual winning ways this year. They've allowed five power play goals in their last two games (total) and it's killing them. Even during the six game win streak their style was to "hang around" and strike late. A bad PK doesn't allow you to hang around, as Vancouver and Detroit illustrated last week.
Some schedules have the game listed tomorrow on FS SW, but Stars PR says the game is on FS SW+, so adjust your DVR's accordingly where necessary and join us for the GDT.
St Louis is without Andy McDonald, Oshie and Perron but they don't care. They've won five straight and jumped all over the Coyotes 4-0 the other night early in the game. That would be the same Coyote team the Stars couldn't score on last Sunday.
They're stingier than the Stars, allowing only 2.62 G/G and their penalty kill is better than Dallas' at 82.3%. They've only three points back of the Stars and have two games in hand.
And because it's topical this morning, the Blues owner thinks they should host a Winter Classic in St. Louis someday...
"They are paying a lot more attention to the climate than they ever have," Checketts said. "They're worried about St. Louis that way. They want a more winterized climate, where they're guaranteed to play the game without any ice problems. I realize that's a big issue, but we are constantly applying for the game every year."
The NHL has an annual application process in which teams must submit a letter detailing their interest. Checketts said that he has turned in the application every year since the Classic began in 2008. He also reminds NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about St. Louis' commitment to the event each time he sees him.
"It's more often than they would like," Checketts said. "I always get a shot in there about the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium." [stltoday.com]