Tuesday, January 10th, 2011, 9:00 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Anaheim Calling
The Dallas Stars are in Anaheim tonight for game #41, looking to put an exclamation point on what has been a trying, but largely successful first half of the season. The Ducks, on the other hand, are wondering where it all went wrong.
Dallas has won two straight against Western Conference foes in the Predators and Oilers and are looking to put a good streak together with the Ducks, Kings and Avalanche coming up this week. Injuries, however, continue to hamper the club.
Sheldon Souray's possible return ("60-40 he might play") was supposed to signal the final NHL roster player back from injury (though you might count Larsen and Vincour among those wounded still) but Mike Ribeiro now goes on the shelf with a possible knee injury and will miss tonight's game, at the very least.
That leaves the Stars thin at center and takes away a significant cog in what had been a balanced offense lately. With Ribeiro gone, the Ducks are free to match lines and concentrate their defensive focus solely on the Jamie Benn trio. A little surprise depth contribution to counter that could a long way tonight in securing two points for the good guys.
The Ducks enter on a two game win streak of their own having scored eleven goals combined in the victories. They're 9-12-1 at Honda Center this year, including a loss 3-1 to the Stars on October 21st. With Selanne, Perry and Ryan their problem isn't putting pucks in the net; It's keeping them out. Jonas Hiller is day to day with a lower body injury and rookie Iiro Tarkki could get his first NHL start tonight against Dallas.
Please remember that this is another Fox Sports Southwest PLUS game, and even though you may see the channel, your cable guide may not indicate that it is in fact Stars hockey. We'll have all the channel #'s posted on the GDT.
Much more on each team after the jump...
With Mike Ribeiro back in Dallas awaiting results from an MRI on his knee, it's Tom Wandell's big moment to shine up with Brenden Morrow and Loui Eriksson. Wandell has been unusually productive as of late, recording five points in his last four games. His speed and quickness cannot be denied but against a team with big, physical forwards like the Ducks, can he be effective?
Lines are expected to look like this:
We expected to hear from the league on Steve Ott's check to the head on Saturday, called as much by the on ice officials that day, but there's been no smoke on that one and thus, no fire. If something did come down today it would put the Stars in a real bind at forward with Mike Ribeiro back in Texas. (knock on wood).
Kari Lehtonen's bout with the flu is said to be over and he should be ready to roll tonight in Anaheim. He faced the Ducks the first time in Southern California this season, stopping 35 of 36 shots sent his way, though the Stars would like to avoid a repeat performance in that regard.
Dallas has a five game clean sheet going on the penalty kill. Anaheim scored two power play goals in their last meeting, beginning a stretch that saw the Stars allow two PPG's a night for four straight. The Ducks scored two power play goals in the BJ's Sunday, ending an 0 for 19 stretch.
It's easy to write off the Ducks and say "they're not very good this year, the Stars should win this game." Anaheim would have to finish something like 24 games over .500 in their remaining half season to hit 95 or 96 points and squeek into the playoffs. This, of course, is not going to happen. It also completely beside point and it's what gets teams like the Stars in serious trouble as the season rounds the halfway mark.
They're still the Ducks. They have Ryan Getzlaf. They have Corey Perry. They have Bobby Ryan. They have Teemu Selanne. They've won two straight, scoring a combined 11 goals, and they played the Sharks pretty hard the game before that. Trending up, is the term I'd use here. They must be taken very seriously, lest a repeat of December 29th against Columbus ensue.
Anaheim is dealing with a bit of a goaltending crisis. Jonas Hiller was injured over the weekend and is day to day. Backup Dan Ellis is out with a groin strain. The word out of Duck practice Monday was that Hiller 'may' skate today so we'll see, but it sounds doubtful that he'd play tonight even in the best case.
So, meet Iiro Tarkki. He was called up from the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL and was needed Sunday in the final two periods against Columbus, making his NHL debut. He faced just 10 shots over the final 40 minutes but stopped only seven of them. This would be his first career start, though he is not so green as you might think. He's 26 years old and played many years in the Finnish Elite League. He was a late bloomer UFA European, a la Jonas Gustavsson, and signed with the Ducks this off-season.
The Ducks lineup:
As usual, beware Visnovsky.