Saturday, November 19th, 2011, 7:00 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: Fear The Fin
The Dallas Stars franchise had a huge win yesterday as the sale to Tom Gaglardi became official but on the ice their woes continued and the offense struggled for the fourth game in a row when they dropped a 3-0 decision to the Avalanche in Denver.
"We've just got to throw pucks at the net. We need some dirty goals and we need some luck to go our way," said captain Brenden Morrow.
Coach Glen Gulutzan once again pointed to a lack of execution and compete level from his players.
"I think we did some better things. I think the discouraging thing is that we are not winning any of our individual battles," said Glen Gulutzan. "If you're not going to win your own one on one battles then there is really nothing you can do. You have to win battles, get to pucks, hold them and start cycles. It seems that if we get a puck chipped into our end on the forecheck they keep it in for 30 seconds. We chip one in their end, get on it and we're in there for five. You can't have it going that way all the time. I think each guy's battle level has to come up."
Battle-level will be hard to come by with the Stars flying back late from Colorado and the Sharks watching last night's tilt from a Dallas hotel room, waiting to build upon their stellar 5-1 record on the road as of late.
The Stars have no choice but to keep at it. They were out-shot by another wide margin (45-24) but have to build on the positive that last night's effort was vastly superior to what happened against the Panthers on Tuesday.
"The Florida game was terrible all the way around," said Kari Lehtonen. "I think we were better today. We just have to keep working."
Lehtonen's worked enough. It's time the Dallas goaltending got a little help in the way of some attack time and penalties drawn, neither of which has happened consistently for the better part of two weeks.
NHL.com says the back-to-back shutouts suffered by Dallas were their first since January of 1999.
A closer look at both teams after the jump...
The Dallas Stars have gone 147:29 without scoring a goal.
Steve Ott's return precipitated a change in the forward grouping with Eriksson moving with Ribeiro and Morrow, leaving Ryder and Benn with Ott. The results, as you know, were no more succesful than the three games before it, leaving Dallas with their 4th loss in a row. The Stars did not experience their first four game losing streak of the year until February last season (Feb 1st - Feb 9th). They would surpass that with one other losing streak of five games almost immediately after.
No word after the game, but one expects to see the same forward lines for this tilt against the San Jose Sharks. The Benn line could draw time trying to shut down the always dangerous Joe Thornton trio, as well as the Fiddler checking line depending on the situation. Krys Barch could come into this game after sitting out Friday's tilt with the after-effects of an injured ankle suffered Tuesday at home against Florida.
On defense the situation is a little murkier. Gulutzan said Friday morning that there is a 50/50 chance that Philip Larsen could crack the lineup after being scratched the last three games following a call-up to replace the injured Alex Goligoski.
Larsen would seem a natural fit for Goligoski along side Stephane Robidas on the power play, but has only watched thus far. Friday night Mark Fistric went violently into a loose penalty box door in Colorado and left the game temporarily with an apparent hip and/or knee injury. He would later return, but could be kept out tonight in favor of Larsen. With an optional morning skate (or perhaps none at all due to the back to back) we won't know until game time.
Andrew Raycroft is expected to start his first home game for the Stars tonight.
At .714 San Jose brings with them the best road points percentage in the Western Conference. They're 5-1 in their last six road games and are coming off a six game home stand that saw them earn points in five games, their most recent: A thorough 5-2 beating of the Detroit Red Wings. In other words, the Sharks are rested, not having played last night (like the Stars) and are firing on all cylinders.
These teams split their season series last year 3-3 and the road team was favored, winning four of the six matchups. San Jose's two wins at American Airlines Center included a collective 10 goals score on Dallas netminders.
As has been the norm these last half dozen games, the Stars seem to always face a team with an elite power play. The Sharks bring the league's fourth deadliest unit to this one tonight and the Stars continue to be one of the league's most penalized teams. Connecting on the power play while limiting chances against should once again be a focus of the Dallas game plan.
At 35.2 the Sharks average the second most shots on goal per game in the entire NHL. The Stars allowed the Avalanche 45 shots against last night, with another 21 either missed or blocked. They have yet to lose a game when scoring first, and have one of the better 5-on-5 GF/GA ratios in the league at 1.36.
All signs point to a challenging night for the Stars. They'll have to reverse many trends to get a result tonight. If one thing looks in their favor, it's that they nearly always play San Jose extremely tough. They'll need to in order to represent backup Andrew Raycroft well.