The Dallas Stars have lost five of their last six games and the proverbial walls close in around them. Where once there was a double digit point lead over ninth place there is now only a nine point difference between Dallas and 14th place in the West. We keep saying things can't get any tighter and we're continually proven wrong.
The Phoenix Coyotes come to town for the third and final time this season on a two game shutout streak and boasting long time nemesis Ilya Bryzgalov in goal. They sit a mere two points behind the Stars for first in the Pacific Division and the Sharks, having won yet again last night, are just a single point back. Dallas needs to stop the bleeding tonight if they're to stay in front.
They need a statement game. We're not talking about a 5-1 win or a 3-0 shutout. We're talking about a different kind of statement, and that statement needs to be: We'll get two points by whatever means necessary. A 7-6 win or a 2-1 win with ugly goals or a shootout win; whatever it is, the Stars need it tonight.
Phoenix last left the AAC on December 26th with a 1-0 win, stifling the Stars defensively and sending a big crowd home without a goal horn. "We got a number of chances and once in a while you just get beat by a hot goaltender,"said Marc Crawford. The goaltender that day was LaBarbera, not Bryzgalov.
For the second time in as many home games the Stars will have to compete with the weather. As many as four inches of snow are expected to follow freezing rain this morning before temperatures plummet into the teens, freezing all of it. It's a bad break for the home schedule that saw the Canucks and Stars play in front of a tiny crowd last Tuesday when ice and snow moved in on the Metroplex the first time. Once again, if you make your way to the AAC tonight please use caution.
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The good news for Stars fans tonight is that Tom Wandell appears healed from his shoulder injury sustained in Vancouver two weeks ago and will be reinserted into the lineup.
The bad news is that certain impactful players like Jamie Benn and Adam Burish will not be seen at the AAC in the near future and the club must once again roll out young rookies in their stead. Young rookies like Tomas Vincour.
The last time young Vincour was seen at the American Airlines Center he was making statement after statement while chewing up the pre-season competition. His performance earned him an extended stay at camp when most of the AHLers had left and his numbers in preseason were impressive. He was noticeable out there. He had had this blogger very excited.
Unfortunately he went down to Cedar Park and has had a little bit of a sub par season, but at 20 years old he has plenty of time to take the next step. He'll get a big opportunity tonight when he makes his official NHL debut. Keep an eye out for #81.
Lines looked like this in practice yesterday:
Kari Lehtonen will start in net for Dallas.
While the Stars languish in their recent slide the Coyotes have two in a row and have done so without allowing a single goal. Also in contrast to Dallas, the Coyotes appear to be getting healthier while the Stars wait impatiently for Jamie Benn, Adam Burish and company to get back.
Their next win will be the Phoenix Coyotes 500th win since moving from Winnipeg according to NHL.com.
Watch out for Shane Doan tonight. Through 18 games this year the veteran had scored only four goals. Three of them were against the Stars. This time the forward finds himself with only one goal in his last 16 games and will be looking to get healthy against his favorite target in the league in Dallas.
AZcentral.com details the Yotes turnaround from getting beat 6-0 by the Canucks two two shutout wins in a row, something Dallas seeks to emulate having also suffered at the hands of the Canucks. Repeatedly.
Five For Howling @ SB Nation for your Coyote needs and smack talk.