10 days ago, the Dallas Stars found themselves in a situation quite similar to the one the San Jose Sharks bring with them from Chicago. They had just lost a game in which they did not feel they performed very well, and they couldn't wait, despite the back to back, to get out on the ice again and put things right.
The loss was to Anaheim, and the subsequent win on the second night of a back to back was in San Jose. The Sharks will look to take a page out of that playbook and get a bounce back win after being ever so slightly embarrassed by the Blackhawks last night.
The Stars must be very wary of a dangerous, angry and desperate team tonight. Given that the Stars can easily fall out of the top eight with the usual unfavorable Western Conference scoreboard results tomorrow, perhaps it is they who should be the angry and desperate ones.
Dallas battled back from a 2-0 deficit to Los Angeles on Sunday and were 20 seconds away from at least one precious point when the Kings came through with a late goal that re-shaped the WCF standings and set the Stars big seven game home stand at 1-1-1 through three.
San Jose is usually* a good place for Dallas to look when the chips are down. They're 3-0-1 against the Sharks this year and 7-2-1 overall in their last 10 meetings. The Stars can move to within two points of the Sharks with a regulation win with a game in hand and an additional head to head match up on March 31st in San Jose.
Before Antti Niemi was pulled midway through the game in Chicago it was believe that Antero Niittymaki would get the start in Dallas. With both goaltenders having played about 30 minutes last night it's anyone's guess this morning who gets the start. We'll update after morning skate(s).
Kari Lehtonen, of course, gives the Stars the best chance to win and is expected back in net tonight for Dallas.
Continued after the jump...
The Stars (and their fans) have spent a lot of time talking about their uneven starts this season, particularly lately. Dallas has led after the first period only once in their last six games, and that follows a month of February where outside of the last couple of games, they very rarely ever had a lead.
Marc Crawford addressed the media on Monday and said of the starting problem: "We'd like to be a team that has them chase us all the time. You always do so much better if you score first or you have a good start to the game...If we can focus on being great here with our starts at home it will probably go a long way in making us a team that is a formidable opponent. We'll focus in on it again tomorrow, and it's a great opportunity for us to be good.''
Jamie Benn got the Stars off to a good start when last these teams met with a short handed goal less than 90 seconds into the first.
Adam Burish (lower body, too many blocked shots) continues to sit and that's a big loss of an emotional leader for Dallas. He is the Stars only injury (as of this writing).
Brad Richards scored his first goal on Sunday since coming back two games earlier and is still trying to get back into the swing of things, particularly on the power play where the team has struggled.
San Jose enters the game have surrendered multiple power play goals in two of their last three games, albeit against the best competition the league has to offer in Vancouver and Chicago. Dallas' power play has been anything but at the level of those two, but perhaps they can take advantage of what appeared at times to be a scrambly penalty kill for SJ last night on Versus. (Chicago's puck movement was beautiful though, I must say.)
SB Nation Sharks Blog Fear The Fin was not pleased with the effort from their club last night...
There were countless issues with the Sharks' overall play tonight, but perhaps what stands out the most was the team's sloppy play which led to penalties. After earning themselves a two-man advantage early in the night on questionable calls, the Sharks should have been aware that the game would be a tightly called affair. Even still, San Jose seemed eager to send the Blackhawks to the power play, committing five minor infractions in the first forty minutes of the game. Chicago would score on two consecutive power plays early in the second, erasing San Jose's one goal advantage and earning themselves their own lead shortly thereafter.
The Blackhawks would not look back from there, scoring another against Antti Niemi on Jonathan Towes' 30th goal of the year. Niemi, who had his former team's number all season, was pulled after that goal. His main weakness tonight was the five-hole; Chicago pounded the puck through Niemi's pad throughout the evening. Niemi, who has gone 17-3-3 over his last 23, is granted an off night now and again. It's just unfortunate that off night came against his former team.
The Blackhawks earned those power plays, of course. They weren't gifts. Dallas will have to be just as dynamic in their skating and puck movement to earn similar opportunities. If Chicago's play last night was any indication, the Stars are going to have their hands more than full on Thursday, so it would be quite pleasant to grab this one tonight against what could be a tired Sharks team.