DALLAS TX - FEBRUARY 09: Left wing Brenden Morrow #10 of the Dallas Stars skates the puck against Lauri Korpikoski #28 of the Phoenix Coyotes at American Airlines Center on February 9 2011 in Dallas Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The Stars are at war with the Western Conference and the first battle is in Phoenix tonight at 8:00pm CST on FS SW+.
The Coyotes have been a constant thorn in the side of the Dallas Stars over the course of the last few seasons since acquiring goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Dave Tippett came next and he's led them to a 7-3-0 record against Dallas over the course of the last two seasons, including 3-1-0 this year.
As we said this morning, the importance of games like this is astronomical. It almost goes without saying, except this is a blog and we need to say something. Phoenix has a four point lead on the Stars but Dallas can, with a regulation victory tonight and their two games in hand, move past the Coyotes points percentage-wise.
Yesterday while Joe Nieuwendyk was holding onto Brad Richards, the Coyotes dealt for, surprise...defense. They sent Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto to the Columbus Blue Jackets for veteran Rostislav Klesla, who was an original Blue Jacket.
The defense first blue-liner will fit in well with Dave Tippett's philosophy, and doubtless that mentality will be on display tonight.
Expect this one to be a chess match in the way the Predators game was, and if the Stars should get behind expect the Coyotes to muck up the game the way Nashville tried to on Saturday. A lucky bounce on the Goligoski goal got the Stars out of that mess, but they'd be lucky to do it again.
Their best bet is to establish a lead and stay out of the penalty box. In their last meeting on February 9th it was two power play goals against that sunk the Stars. Special teams and goaltending, as usual, will play a critical part tonight in what will probably be a low scoring affair.
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The Stars have dropped seven of their last eight on the road while the Coyotes are hot at home, taking their last five, so on paper this matchup is not a good for Dallas, but overall the Stars are coming off two strong performances to end their slide and the Coyotes have had some trouble recently going on an 0-2-1 slide.
While Phoenix hopes to work their new d-man in tonight, the Stars are hoping theirs just keeps doing what he's been doing. Goligoski was an integral part of the Stars comeback against Nashville over the weekend and his impact went far beyond the goal and assist on the score sheet. Phoenix lost a little bit of offense in Scottie Upshall (16 goals, 27 points) but he hadn't scored a single one against Dallas this year so we'll breathe no sigh of relief there.
As usual, beware Shane Doan: Star killer.
This will hopefully be the Stars last game this season without Brad Richards. Joe NIeuwendyk reiterated on the radio today that the plan is for Brad to join the team for an off day in Phoenix tomorrow and hopefully skate with the team. If he's able to practice at full speed then there's a good chance he could be ready for Anaheim on Friday night.
In the mean time the Stars will continue to roll Tomas Vincour out there, who is due for a goal, and double shift Jamie Benn as needed. Benn has played with Eriksson and Vincour and Ribeiro and Morrow recently with Jason Williams and Jamie Langenbrunner floating around between.
When Phoenix last beat the Stars in February the team was without Adam Burish, Krys Barch, Jamie Benn and Brad Richards. With any luck a healthier Stars team means a better result.
Kari Lehtonen is scheduled to get the Start in net.
Don't forget, the game is on Fox Sports PLUS channel tonight so check your guides accordingly and don't freak out when you see the Mavericks on your TV.
Please join us here for our GDT tonight at 8:00pm CST.