Monday, December 19th, 2011, 7:00 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent SB Nation Blog: Anaheim Calling
[Editor's Note: Please notice that tonight's game is on Versus and is a nationally televised game.]
The Dallas Stars return home with a share of the Pacific Division lead after collecting six out of a possible ten points on a five game road swing (3-2-0). They'll get back on AAC ice tonight where they're 9-4-1 on the year looking to gain some ground on an extended home stretch that runs up to the halfway mark on the year. The Pacific Division lead of 37 points, after all, is good for third in the conference with tie-breakers, but just eighth in the West without.
Rookie goaltender Richard Bachman backstopped the Stars to all three wins on the road but took the lopsided 6-3 decision in New Jersey. He'll be looking to rebound tonight in his first ever start in Dallas (and his first ever start on national television).
Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan is concerned about that age old saying: The first home game after a long road trip is always a tough one. Dallas has changed up their practice routines and will even hold morning skate in Frisco rather than the normal AAC session in an effort to shake things up a bit.
The Ducks enter with well publicized difficulties and a new head coach in Bruce Boudreau. Anaheim is 2-5-1 since he took over and have lost four of their last five. The road has been particularly unkind to them; They've lost 11 straight away from Honda Center dating back to October 29th and have been outscored 38-17 (not counting shootout goals) in that span.
Dallas will try to keep that streak alive while attempting to start a new winnign streak of their own. The Stars have six of their next seven at home, with one on the road against red-hot St. Louis after Christmas.
Stars fans please note the earlier than normal start time of 7:00pm.
Much more on each team after the jump...
Dallas experienced a welcome influx of healthy bodies to start their two-coast road trip but come back counting the missing. Call-ups Philip Larsen and Tomas Vincour contributed significantly when needed at the NHL level but both will miss this one and likely more after getting banged up on the road. Larsen has a quad contusion and Vincour sprained his MCL.
On the flip side, Adam Burish is getting close to returning after a broken hand sidelined him on November 15th.
"Bur looked pretty good out there," said Gulutzan on Sunday, "but we have to see where he's at. You know Bur, he'll be hounding everybody here, but we'll follow the same protocol in that we're not putting players in until they are game ready and they can help us."
He's listed as questionable and Gulutzan's comments make it sound doubtful. Toby Petersen has not played much of late with Vincour performing well on the fourth line, but the scrappy forward could be back in tonight.
Expect lines to look much the same as they have:
The Stars liked Goligoski with Larsen and they take a hit there with the rookie out, but Fistric and Pardy are good options with big, physical teams like Anaheim and Philadelphia visiting during this home stretch. Fistric hasn't played since the New York Islander game that saw him get suspended.
The aforementioned Richard Bachman will start in goal, his fifth consecutive start and sixth consecutive appearance.
Kari Lehtonen is expected to return sometime around the New Year.
As in most sports, you can throw the records out the window when Divisional foes get together. The Anaheim Ducks will be glad to think that's the case tonight. At 9-18-5 and 23 points on the season, they'll have to finish off their remaining games with a record of about 33-11-6 (.720 hockey) to reach the presumed requisite 95 points.
The Stars are dead last in the league in shots allowed per game at 32.4 but the Ducks aren't far behind at 31.0. Anaheim owns the league's lowest 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio at 0.74, meaning they're susceptible at even strength. That bodes well for Dallas as the power play continues to struggle.
The Anaheim special teams match up comparably with Dallas' mid-pack numbers: a 17.2% power play and an 83.3% penalty kill. Even during their slide the Anaheim power play scored in eight of nine games recently. They've surrendered a power play goal against in six of their last eight games.
The OC Register reports Ducks center Saku Koivu will most likely miss this game due to a strained groin muscle.
Goaltending has been an issue for the Ducks lately:
A 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets will be remembered for Teemu Selanne's return to the city where he took the NHL by storm as a rookie. It also will mask a night of shoddy goaltending and leaky defensive play.
Alex Burmistrov's goal in the first minute past Dan Ellis on the stick side off a rush was one of the two or three that the veteran should have made a stop on. Two things that went against them changed the momentum for good. [OC Register]
Strong language there, but coach Bruce Boudreau agrees...
"There was a couple others where I didn't think the goalie did a good job of keeping us in the game when he needed to keep us in the game," said Boudreau in speaking about both of his goaltenders. "They've got to make those saves."
Jonas Hiller is rumored to be making the start Monday but as of late Sunday night this is not confirmed.
Former Dallas Star Niklas Hagman will make his first appearance at the AAC in a Duck uniform.