Saturday, January 21st, 2011, 8:00 PM CST
Xcel Energy Center
Opponent Blog: Hockey Wilderness
The Stars enter play tonight, after losing 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning at home on Friday, having lost four straight and five of their last six overall, yet sit just two points back of eighth place Colorado in the conference with two games in hand. Dallas is 0-6-1 on the second night of back to back sets this season, and has scored just four total goals in their last four games in the absence of Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro.
The Stars had a bit of a slow start to the game, trailing 1-0 after the first period. Dallas was out-shot 13-5 in the frame, including a full two minute power play that produced no shots on goal, no missed shots, and only one blocked attempt. Head coach Glen Gulutzan was dissatisfied with what he saw through the game's first 30 minutes.
"The most frustrating part was really the first 30 minutes of getting outworked," said Gulutzan. "That's always the most frustrating part. I've got no problem if you go in a shootout or you play hard and you just don't get results."
The Wild, who are not on the second night of a back to back, last played Thursday in a 4-1 loss to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. They have lost six of their last seven games now and like the Stars, are missing their most important offensive talents. Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillame Latendresse are all out of the lineup and the Wild offense has suffered accordingly as of late. Devin Setoguchi, with whom the Stars are extensively familiar, is still in the lineup as is Dany Heatley.
This will be the two team's first meeting of the season, and also the first since Minnesota ended the Stars' playoff hopes in the final game of the NHL's regular season on April 10th.
More on each team after the jump...
The Stars went 3-1-0 against the Wild last year and have won six of their last seven overall against them. They split at Xcel Energy Center last season. Whatever happens, the Stars know they want to get off to a more spirited start after last night.
"Just a bad start by us," said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski Friday night. "I think in the final two periods we played good enough to win, but we got behind again. We've got to stop doing that. The team we've got out there right now, we are playing a defensive system and we've got to get leads. We've got to come out and have better starts."
Philip Larsen could play in this one if Gulutzan decides to shake things up after last night's effort. Adam Pardy is an option as well. Larsen recently came off IR after missing eight games with a concussion. The Stars have eight healthy defensemen (as far as we know late Friday night) and must find a way to balance them or else send someone to Austin before long.
Kari Lehtonen was heroic in the first period last night and the Stars were fortunate to only be down 1-0. The coaching staff did not commit to a starter for Saturday when asked Thursday and Friday morning, but the assumption is that Richard Bachman will get the start. He has stopped 55 of the last 58 shots he's faced and was good in a back to back situation on Tuesday against the Red Wings, despite the shootout loss.
The Stars have killed 11 power plays in a row for the opposition but continue to struggle on the other side of the special teams coin, going 0-for-4 in 7:22 of power play time last night against the Lightning. The Wild have allowed eight power play goals against in their last six games. Can the Stars take advantage of a bad penalty killing team without Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro?
On December 11th the Minnesota Wild were on top of the (hockey) world. They had just won their seventh straight game the night before and sat atop the standings with 43 points at 20-7-3. They were the big surprise of the year. They were going to cruise to a playoff spot at that rate.
Some on the internet spoke of shot differentials, CORSI numbers, scoring chances, and mounting injuries. They said it was a mirage. Wild fans didn't want to hear about it. Like Stars fans didn't want to hear about it last year and the Avalanche fans didn't want to hear about it the year before that. Those things have a way of catching up to a team, however.
Since then the Wild have lost 15 of 17 games played, collecting just eight points in over a month of play (.250 hockey).
They've scored 27 goals in their last 18 games (1.5 per) and have been limited to one or none 10 different times. On the flip side they've surrendered 54 goals in that span - Good for an even 3.00 per game.
More recently Minnesota is on a four game losing streak and has won just one of their last seven overall, and that was a late collapse against San Jose in which they allowed a two goal lead to evaporate in the final three minutes before winning in a shootout. Their only other win since collapsing was against the Edmonton Oilers. Both came at home.
Their road record before the fall was 10-3-2. Since they've gone 0-9-2 away from Xcel Engergy Center. The Wild have scored 11 goals in their last 11 road games, so there's no excuse not to keep this one a low scoring affair.
Minnesota swapped a few players out with the AHL team to try to shake things up a bit coming into this one, so the Stars could see a real effort from a bunch of call ups eager to prove themselves at this level.
The moves today are simple swaps from St. Paul to Houston and back. Nothing ultimately impressive, but you will get your first shot to see Chad Rau, which many of you have been pining for. Hopefully the kid brings his A game, turns the team around and never looks back. You can all dream if you want to.
The moves from today are:
Reassigned: Casey Wellman and David McItyre
Called up: Matt Kassian, Chad Rau, Jed Ortmeyer, and Nate Prosser.
The guess here would be that all four are put into the lineup tomorrow against Dallas, if for no other reason than to send the message that if the guys on the roster aren't willing to play, they'll bring in guys that will.