Wednesday, December 21st, 2011, 6:30 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent SB Nation Blog: Broad Street Hockey
The Stars began their three game home stand with some difficulty against the Ducks Monday night but a strong third period ended with a 5-3 Dallas win. A tough measuring-stick game awaits them tonight as the Philadelphia Flyers enter with one of the best records in hockey.
Kari Lehtonen continues his steady improvement and could be ready just after Christmas with a little luck, but the team goes in the mean time with rookie Richard Bachman between the pipes. He's 4-1-0 in six appearances with a .924 save percentage and a 2.24 GAA despite surrendering a total of nine in his last two games.
"He's played well and we're going to give him an opportunity," said coach Glen Gulutzan. "We're winning hockey games and at the end of the day that's what we're about here. We're trying to get wins and he's providing us with those."
On Philadelphia's side of things the team's stellar season is being somewhat obscured by big name injuries and the attention they're receiving in HBO's spotlight leading up to the Winter Classic, but make no mistake: The Flyers are spectacular for all the right reasons and enter with the league's best road record at 12-3-2.
The big news for them, of course, is that their MVP this season (not to mention the league's leading scorer) in Claude Giroux has been upgraded to day-to-day and figures to return tonight after being sidelined with a mild concussion.
Stars fans should please take notice that tonight's game starts an hour early at 6:30pm CST, and that it will once again be televised on the Versus/NBC Sports Network.
More on each team after the jump...
Tomas Vincour was officially placed on IR yesterday retroactive to his December 15th injury. That opens up a spot for Adam Burish to return to the lineup for the first time since mid November when he injured his hand in a 6-0 loss to the Florida Panthers at American Airlines Center.
"He'll be a player for us tomorrow," said Gulutzan. "He's ready to go. His hand is ready, he can shoot and conditioning-wise he is where he needs to be. He'll be in our lineup tomorrow."
The guess is that Dowell or Petersen come out and that Burish plays right wing on the fourth line with Wandell in the middle. Other than that the lineup will stay the same, barring a decision to bring Adam Pardy in instead of Mark Fistric. Philip Larsen continues to be out with what's been described as a charlie horse. He could resume skating today.
When Vincour is healthy again, barring further injury, the Stars will have to make a choice between the extra body at forward (Vincour) and the extra body at defense (Larsen). Someone will have to go back to Cedar Park and the Texas Stars.
Dallas has scored power play goals now in six of their last eight games, 6 of 32 overall in that span. 18.7% isn't lighting the world on fire but it's a far cry from the eight game drought endured in November. The Stars will need to keep improving on that tonight if they're to beat the #1 offense in the NHL.
Philadelphia took both meetings last season, including a 3-2 shootout win in March that saw the Stars down to just four defensemen by the third period.
Philadelphia enters with the league's third best points percentage (.688%) having just completed a stretch that saw them win nine of ten, including a seven game win streak. What's more is that they roll into Dallas with, as I mentioned before, far and away the best road record in the league at a staggering 12-3-2. They're 2-0-1 on the road vs the Western Conference.
The Flyers boast a top-10 power play at 18.8% overall but have struggled a little of late going scoreless in 16 of their last 17 opportunities. On the other side their penalty kill has been a little leaky, allowing 16 power play goals against in their last 14 games. That includes killing just 49 of their opponents last 65 power play opportunities.
The problem there appears to be the number of power plays they're surrendering. Even without Chris Pronger the Flyers have been shorthanded 4.6 times per game in that stretch, including giving Montreal 9 power plays and Boston 8 recently. They were more disciplined and surrendered just two chances to the Avalanche on Monday night. (We'll see what the #peskystars can do to tempt them.) It should be noted, however, that they won nine of those games. Their league leading 3.5 goals/game offense sees to it that penalty trouble is not an issue. They've scored 112 goals to Dallas' 85.
A slow start for the Stars could spell death tonight. The Flyers are 13-0-1 when leading after the first period and, of course, 16-0-1 when leading after two. Trailing at an intermission does not bode well for Philly opponents.
The Philadelphia lineup has resembled this, though remember they'll likely have Giroux back tonight...
That would be the same Sestito who famously went unpunished last year for a blindside high hit to Nick Grossman.