Tuesday, January 3rd, 2011, 7:00 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: Winging It In Motown
The Stars enter tonight's contest looking to put together consecutive wins for the first time since December 13th and 15th on the road in New York. Consistency has eluded them as injuries have piled up, and tonight will be no different with Stephane Robidas, Sheldon Souray and Philip Larsen all missing from the home team's blue line.
Consistency has been a battle all season long for the Stars, who sit just a point out of the Pacific Division lead. Since last meeting the Wings on November 12th the Stars have only two "win streaks" at two games (Nov. 21st and 23rd) and three games (on the five game Eastern road swing in mid December). Win-one/lose-one has been the name of the game otherwise, and the Stars enter play with just the 8th best points percentage in the West, flirting with the wrong side of the playoff picture.
They finished 2011 with a big win against defending champion Boston and will look to carry some momentum from that with them tonight as the Red Wings come to town. Dallas hung tough with Detroit at the Joe in November through two periods but a three-goal outburst sent the Stars home empty handed.
Standing in the Stars' way tonight will be Jimmy Howard and his 23-9-1 record with a .929 save percentage and a 1.93 GAA, but the Wings have been struggling of late on the road, winning just three of their last nine.
Please note the early start time of 7:00pm CST, and also note that the game is on NBC Sports Network (Versus) once again.
Much more on each team after the jump...
Dallas is still without it's top defensive pairing in Robidas and Souray, and now the duo that had been seeing first pairing minutes in their stead will be without rookie Philip Larsen, who has concussion-like symptoms courtesy of a Milan Lucic hit.
In their stead enter Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillon from the Texas Stars. It is expected that the older Benn will make his NHL debut. The Dillon call-up could be for insurance, though it is also possible that another body is banged up on the blue line. Only time will tell. They could choose to dress seven defensemen tonight if that is the case. The moves leave the Texas Stars without their top three defensive players and with only five defensemen under contract as of last night.
Pairs are expected to be these:
The Stars' power play broke through Saturday with a two goal performance. Their last two goal power play performance was against Anaheim at home and it was followed by a four game scoreless streak. They'll look for consistency tonight. They've surrendered only five PP's to the opposition in the last two games, killing all of them. As usual, discipline will be key against Detroit.
Kari Lehtonen, of course, is expected to get the start in net. He's 1-1-0 since returning from injury and has stopped just 43 of 48 shots sent his way in that time (.896).
According to Stars PR, "If both Benns play on Tuesday night, they will be the sixth set of brothers in team history and the third in Dallas Stars history to play a game together. They will also be the 48th set of brothers in NHL history to play game on the same team."
The Red Wings:
The Wings are, rather uncharacteristically, just 1 of their last 19 on the power play having gone scoreless on the man advantage in six of their previous seven games. They enter the game with the league's #12 road power play at 17.8% and went scoreless against the Stars penalty kill in the team's only meeting thus far in November.
They have the 9th best penalty kill on the road at 85.1%. They're trending up having killed 25 of their last 29 over all. If the Stars are to find the same magic they had against Boston on Saturday they'll have to crack a pretty tough PK unit and goaltender.
Speaking of goaltenders, that's where many prefer to start when discussing the Detroit Red Wings these days. Expect Jimmy Howard in net. He started 13 of 15 for Detroit in December, leads the league in wins at 23, and already has four shutouts on the year.
He's 3-4-1 with a 2.37 GAA against Dallas in his young career.
Detroit has a 9-11-0 record away from the Joe this season. They've been to only one shootout all year long, and they have a conference best points percentage against the Pacific at 6-2-0 already.
The Detroit lineup as of late resembles something like this...