Thursday, December 8th, 2011, 9:20 PM CST
Opponent SB Nation Blog: Fear The Fin
The frequency of the battles between these two teams might be severely reduced starting next season thanks to realignment, but the two still have much to decide in this last year of the Pacific Division. San Jose came to Dallas and dominated the Stars from start to finish in a masterful 4-1 win in a penalty filled game. Andrew Raycroft took the loss that night, and he'll see action in the Stars' net once again tonight while Kari Lehtonen rehabs his groin.
This one marks the start of a five game road trip for the Stars and they're hoping their fortunes improve as their injured reserve list shrinks. Kari Lehtonen, the unquestioned MVP of the team is still on the shelf, but Brenden Morrow, Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski all figure to return tonight and help the Stars revenge an ugly loss to the New York Islanders five days ago.
The Sharks, meanwhile, enter on a bit of a skid having dropped four of their last five. The team has been in a bit of an offensive funk and they're just 1 for their last 14 power play attempts.
"There were a lot of missed opportunities," says Dan Boyle. "We had a ton of chances but our execution, that's a word we're going to hear a lot...we're just not putting the puck in the net right now."
The Stars hope tonight isn't the night they get healthy, but they've lost their last two games to the Sharks going back to last season by a combined score of 10-1, including a 6-0 defeat in their last trip to HP Pavilion in March.
Much more on both teams after the jump...
The Stars' reported practice lineup from Wednesday morning was this:
Word out of that practice was that Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski were 100% a go for tonight's game in San Jose. Don't be surprised if it changes for Goligoski, who is still playing with a "playing cast" despite having his real cast removed, but things look good at the moment.
We now know that Mark Fistric will miss the next three games with his suspension, so the thinking out there is that Goligoski/Larsen could be a real pairing for this one. Trevor Daley, Stephane Robidas and Alex Goligoski spread out among three pairings is what the Stars want, and what they've been missing. How they'll do against the (large) physical Sharks team is another conversation entirely.
Brenden Morrow is "likely" for this one. It will be interesting to see if they can keep Vincour and Larsen active at the same time, as Fistric still counts against the active roster. If Morrow doesn't come off IR then Vincour can stay. Krys Barch's departure opened up a roster space but activating two on defense will close it.
Andrew Raycroft will, of course, be in net.
Writing these previews for the Sharks have become tedious over the course of the last few years. The Sharks enter with a better points percentage (the real standings), a better power play, many more shots per game, a better faceoff percentage, a better offense, a better defense, and pretty much a better everything else (though, not a better penalty kill)...
The Stars, however, find a way more often than not to best them on their home ice. Dallas has won eight of the last twelve games at the Shark tank, including two of three last year and the year before that.
The Sharks are eager to flex their offensive muscles. They threw a combined 93 pucks toward the Minnesota net the other night (shots + goals + missed shots +blocked shots) and came away with only one goal to show for it. That includes a dominant 23 shot performance in the first period. They've scored just 10 goals in their last six games, and have dropped four of five.
Opportunities and possession have been there for them. It's just a matter of time, and the Stars hope that Andrew Raycroft isn't the one who has to face that time.
From our SB Nation friends at Fear the Fin:
What's the problem with the Sharks, then, who have now lost four of five after looking like they were back to being the team that everyone hoped they would be? There are a few overarching themes from the season that rear their heads here: a power play that couldn't cash in when it needed to, a penalty kill that sputtered to a 50% success rate, and a team wide inability to connect passes and control the puck.
Positively, the shot generation total is encouraging, just as it was when the Sharks were in a similar slump to start the year. Playing as poorly as they have, they're still outshooting the best team in the league (at least from a record standpoint) at a 2-1 ratio. That ratio is even higher when you factor in blocked shots (33) and missed shots (18), or 93 total pucks directed towards the opposition's net. When this team gets right, which we saw flashes of in the first, they're going to be scary.