Saturday, October 15th, 2011, 7:00 PM CDT
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: The Cannon
The Dallas Stars enter Saturday night's contest having won their first three home games since the 2006-2007 season, attempting to win their first four at home since their Stanley Cup winning year of 1998-1999. Dallas is 27-8-5 all time against the Blue Jackets and split four games with them last season going 2-1-1 in the process.
Both teams enter the game unhappy with their play to start the season but with very different results to show for it. Stars' head coach Glen Gulutzan has been unsatisfied with his team's effort on the whole in the season's first four games, yet boasts a 3-1 record, all against Western Conference opponents. The Jackets have opened the season 0-3-1 and are looking for their first W of the year.
"I know Gulutzan from the American Hockey League," head coach Arniel told BlueJackets.com. "His teams always work hard. They don't have any stars like they did with Richards last year, but they play sort of a 1-4 through the neutral zone and make you dump pucks."
Tonight's game will take place roughly a half hour's drive from the pivotal game six of the ALCS where the Texas Rangers take on the Detroit Tigers in a potential World Series Berth clinching effort. Attendances of 6,306 and 7,949 have drawn national interest this week as the Stars continue to compete with the Cowboys and Rangers for local attention.
A healthy Stars defense finally takes the blue line after the jump...
The Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak, Adam Burish is in for another big challenge tonight as they'll likely be asked to contain one of the best new lines in the Western Conference in Rick Nash, Vinny Prospal, and Jeff Carter. That trio for the Stars was on the ice for both St. Louis goals on Thursday night along with the Grossman/Daley blue line combo.
Speaking of defense, Adam Pardy is expected to make his Dallas Stars debut tonight and fans will see Joe Nieuwendyk's complete off-season vision and assembly of the blue line for the first time. Pairs at practice on Friday were as follows:
The forward lines are expected to remain nearly the same with Benn centering Erikson and Ott, Ribeiro centering Morrow and Ryder, and Fiddler centering Burish and Dvorak. The one change could come on the fourth line, where there's a good chance that newly acquired forward Eric Nystrom could make his Stars debut.
Nystrom, Toby Petersen, Jake Dowell, Tom Wandell and Krys Barch give Gulutzan a plethora of ways to assemble his fourth line, which he gave only six shifts to on Thursday totaling about four minutes. He was frank with the media on that distribution.
"I was a little disappointed in myself for that," Gulutzan said. "I thought they should have played more. I watched their game, and I thought they played pretty well. They kind of went to three lines to get back into the game, and you feel if you don't play (the fourth line) for 10 or 8 minutes then it's unfair to put them out there against Berglund, so you kind of get paranoid as a coach. I think if I had a do-over, I think they played well enough to get on the ice, and I have to do a better job there."
The Blue Jackets:
Like the Stars, the Blue Jackets opened at home to a large crowd only to see things dwindle shortly thereafter to a group of 8,986 against the Colorado Avalanche. The team made several high profile moves in the off-season including the acquisitions of Jeff Carter, Vinny Prospal and James Wisniewski, making them a favorite pick of many in the media for vast improvement and a playoff spot.
Instead they've started at a franchise worst 0-3-1 with particular problems on special teams. The club has started 0-20 with the man advantage and that includes over 36 minutes on the job. They've earned 10 of the 20 in their first periods, so the Stars should be vigilant in the opening frame. The penalty kill has not been much better, killing only 11 of 15 opposing power plays, good for 73.3%.
"The area that we looked at with Alex is that he's a big body, veteran guy that knows how to play on the walls," Arniel said. "He knows how to play the system. I think with Cam (Atkinson), we're still trying to teach some of those things and he's going to get better at it.
"Having that size on the wing will help us, and in front of the net. Alex doesn't need many chances to score goals."
Giroux's showing in training camp left an impression on Arniel, who elected to keep him around after the Blue Jackets returned from their team-bonding trip in Oxford, Ohio. As one of the last cuts from camp, Arniel knew he would be seeing Giroux again soon.
"I thought he had an excellent training camp," Arniel said. "He impressed me in his play without the puck, which was some concern for me because I'd never seen him in my camp."
Stars fans should remember Giroux from the Texas Stars Calder Cup run we detailed and followed in the summer of 2010. Part of the Washington Capitals organization then, he helped the Hershey Bears take down Glen Gulutzan's Stars in six games, with 27 points in 21 playoffs games.
Steve Mason will start in goal for Columbus and is 3-1-0 against the Stars in his career with a 2.10 GAA and a .920 save percentage. Salty.