Tuesday, December 13th, 2011, 6:00 PM CST
Madison Square Garden
Opponent SB Nation Blog: Blueshirt Banter
If you weren't a big fan of the 9:50pm start time in Los Angeles on Saturday night you'll be happy to know that the Dallas Stars switched coasts and will be starting nearly four hours earlier at 6:00pm local time when they take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The Stars took a five hour flight on Sunday and tried to adjust their body clocks yesterday with a two hour practice. They'll stay in the area for the next two as New Jersey and the Islanders are on the docket.
Dallas continues on without Kari Lehtonen, who remains in Frisco rehabbing his groin. Rumor has it he has been on the ice this week, but speculation is that he'll still need until Christmas or beyond before he can return to game action. As such, Richard Bachman continues to be the headline. After stopping 26 of 27 in Los Angeles Saturday he returns tonight for his second career NHL start.
"It's an opportunity for him to showcase himself with us," said Coach Gulutzan. "It's an opportunity to solidify him in our plans and what we're doing. We have to evaluate him, just like we are (Philip Larsen ), (Tomas Vincour) and all these guys that are coming up. We want to see where they stand. It's a good opportunity for him to showcase himself."
Tonight also marks the third and final game of Mark Fistric's suspension handed to him after the Islander game in Dallas on the 3rd. He is eligible to return now, coincidentally enough, against those same Islanders on Thursday night.
A thorough look at both squads follows the jump...
Until the drought ends the story will continue to be the under-performing top six of the Dallas Stars. Mike Ribeiro has found a way to contribute the odd point along the way here or there, assisting on a couple of Radek Dvorak tallies, for instance, and power play goals from time to time but the Jamie Benn line has been even quieter.
Ryder and Benn combined for a power play goal Saturday night in Los Angeles when the puck deflected in off Benn's skate. At even strength the trio has been utterly silent. In their last seven games that line has generated exactly one even strength goal: Michael Ryder's breakaway tally in Colorado. (You can also count his empty net goal if you like, but that's not really in the spirit of this particular point.)
The Stars penalty kill has been rolling along at 92 percent the last nine games (25 of 27) and they'll have their work cutout for them against a dangerous Ranger team on the job.
In 10 of Dallas' 14 road games they have been out-shot. In 8 of those 10 they have been out-shot by double digits. The Stars allow nearly 35 shots on average away from the AAC. All of which is to say: Richard Bachman, buckle your seat-belt, friend, and have a Red Bull before the game.
Mike Heika said lines were the same in practice yesterday, but that Toby Petersen is a good possibility to sub in on the fourth line.
If the Benn line continues their silence, how long before they try a shakeup, and what would it be?
Collecting stats about the New York Rangers feels oddly like collecting stats on the Sharks the last many years... They're obnoxiously good and accomplished in nearly every category.
They've allowed the second fewest goals in the entire NHL at 60, and sit technically 4th in the league with goals against per game of just 2.11. They don't give you much of anything at all. On the other side of the puck, so to speak, they're just as good. A +23 goal differential is the 4th best in the league.
If that doesn't do it for you, how about their special teams? They've scored on 10 of their last 37 attempts (27%), and though their PP is 19th in the league at 17.1%, it's 23.2% in their building. They've scored a PP goal in eight consecutive home games. Their PK is just as good as the Stars' is lately, killing 24 of their last 26 short handed situations. If that's not enough, they're a stellar 8-2-2 in the newly refurbished MSG.
Everything points to a tough start for Dallas, who have been habitual slow starters again this year. If there's one statistic that looks good on that front, it's the Rangers starts, which aren't great either. In 27 first periods this year they've scored only 16 goals. They do rev things up considerably in the second, however, scoring 36 in the middle frame. That's 2nd best in the league.
Lines have looked something like this lately for the Rangers (Sean Avery has not been playing, but may in this one)
Jeff Woywitka has 1 goal, 4 assists and a +3 on the season in 21 games played.
Rangers fans are excited about their team's extended surge. They're 14-3-1 in their last 18 and our friends at SB Nation's Blue Shirt Banter believe they're proving themselves to be a truly elite team.
The New York Rangers obliterated the Florida Panthers in a 6-1 rout last night.
That's not last year's Florida Panthers either, that's a very good hockey team who is in first place in the Southeastern Conference and is a point away from having the best record in the East. That's a team with a ton of talented players who has jumped off to a blistering 16-9-5 start and was 4-1-1 in their last six games.
And now they're another addition to an increasingly long list of great teams the Rangers have handled this season.
All the usual suspects came through for the Rangers in the win. Derek Stepan had two goals and an assist, including a brilliant deke and snipe that had Rangers fans collectively lifting their jaws off the Madison Square Garden floor once they realized what happened. Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist and both Richards and Steve Eminger added goals of their own. [Blue Shirt Banter]