Tuesday, January 24th, 2011, 7:30 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: Anaheim Calling
The Dallas Stars come into this one losers of five straight (0-4-1) and falling in the Western Conference's playoff race. They're 2-1-0 against the Ducks this year, including a regulation win on home ice (3-1). They'll look to continue the sweep of Anaheim at home this year tonight at 7:30 CST on Fox Sports Southwest, badly in need of a positive note on which to enter the All-Star break.
"A win going into the break would feel really good," opined Alex Goligoski, recipient of a new four year contract extension yesterday. Standing in their way, however, is an Anaheim Duck team with serious momentum, teeming with confidence.
When last these teams met two weeks ago on January 10th in Anaheim, the Stars had won two in a row and the Ducks, who were without their starting and backup netminders, were in a bad way near the bottom of the standings. This time it's Dallas that's limping, having lost their last five, and Anaheim that enters with the upper hand having won eight of their last nine games.
Dallas played an impressive first period against the Ducks that night, out-chancing them by a significant margin, out-shooting them 12-7, and ringing the puck of three goal posts, but had nothing to show for it but a 1-0 Dallas. They'd later tie the game at two in the third, but three unanswered goals, not unlike Saturday in Minnesota, secured a 5-2 win for Anaheim.
Mike Ribeiro missed that contest, the first of seven straight leading up to this one, but he could be back in the lineup tonight pending the outcome of morning skate...
Much more on each team after the jump
Mike Ribeiro has missed seven straight with a partially torn MCL suffered at home on January 7th against the Edmonton Oilers. He practiced with the team yesterday and said afterward that he could be a player tonight against the Ducks. Ribeiro will take morning skate with his team and then see how he feels after two straight days of activity.
His return would obviously be a big lift to a team missing it's top two centers, and could be a nice emotional lift given that he was not forecast to return until after the break previously. If he can fight through 60 minutes effectively tonight, he'd have seven days after to further rest it.
If he does play, the lines are expected to look something like this:
That would be Matt Fraser, 21 year old forward from Red Deer, Alberta, playing his first professional year with the Stars AHL affiliate. With those Texas Stars he has amassed 21 goals in just 40 games (4th in the AHL). He is expected to make his NHL debut tonight on the Stars' fourth line.
Brenden Morrow will miss this game with what the team is calling a minor neck issue. It is not expected to be a long term problem.
Morrow is officially on the IR, though the plan right now seems to be for him to only miss the one game. His placement is retroactive to the 21st, so he will be eligible to come off IR by the next time the Stars play, against these same Ducks in Anaheim on the 1st.
"He made some big saves for us and we hung him to dry. I just wanted to change," Gulutzan said of having Bachman finish the game Saturday. "I'm not going to change Kari with four minutes left in the second period, he's been too good for us to do that. It was a message to our guys that we need to be better."
Anaheim might still be a long shot for the playoffs, but don't tell them that. They've won eight of their last nine games, and the only loss there was in overtime. Eight wins ago for the Stars was December 13th: 19 games ago. The Stars must face them before the break and immediately following on the first game of a Western trip to Southern California on Feb. 1st.
All that aside, the Ducks are coming off a less than impressive effort against the Colorado Avalanche, though it was a 3-2 victory. The Avs out-shot them 45-18, but Jonas Hiller was there to clean that up and get the victory.
"We've played games where you deserve to win and you come out and you say, 'heck we should have won and we lost,'" Boudreau said after. "I'm not going to give the two points back."
Jonas Hiller has returned from injury and, after losing one in OT, won five straight for the Ducks. He's been spectacular, stopping 171 of his last 179 shots against (.955 save percentage) and has not allowed more than two per game in that stretch.
Over all the Ducks have allowed just 10 goals in their last seven games, taking a page out of the LA Kings playbook: Don't get scored on.
If Hiller started tonight it would be his third in fourth nights, but with seven off days waiting on the other side, there's minimal risk, so we'd expect the Ducks to roll with hot hand. Hiller is 0-3-0 with a 3.37 GAA in his last three against the Stars, however.
The (healthy) Ducks: