Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 6:30 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Habs Eyes On The Prize
The Stars know how desperate their situation is after back to back losses last weekend, but they say they can't get frustrated or down on themselves with such a busy schedule.
"As hard as it is to swallow, you have to keep doing the little things right," said Glen Gulutzan Sunday of yet another close loss. "The moment you veer away and start losing confidence, you are in trouble. We're doing little things right, but we're not getting results."
With the Stars in likely need of about 30 more points the rest of the way and only 23 games in which to earn them, those results need to start coming in bunches, and soon.
Montreal sits in 13th place in the East, six points out of a playoff spot. They somehow find themselves, with a -4 goal differential (much better than the Stars' -15), sitting behind teams with goal differentials of -9, -17, -32, and -35. They're on a slight uptick since the break, going 5-4-1 in their last ten and should present a big challenge tonight in that crazy building.
The Canadiens have always presented a long list of Dallas Stars related ties throughout the years. Be it Guy Carbonneau and Craig Ludwig or Mike Ribeiro and Stephane Robidas, the Stars always seem to have some connections there, and this year it's intensified quite a bit. Michael Ryder spent many years there, as did Sheldon Souray, who is questionable tonight. This marks, somehow through curious injury circumstances and infrequent trips up there, Mike Ribeiro's first game with the Stars to be played against Montreal, IN Montreal.
This is just the Stars second trip to Montreal since the lockout. They lost both games in regulation by scored of 4-2 (2005-2006) and 5-3 (2009-2010).
Much more on each team after the jump...
As it's been all season long for Dallas, injury concerns are top of mind as they try desperately to keep pace in the West. Their captain Brenden Morrow is still a few weeks away as he continues to rehab a neck/back injury, and their best player in Jamie Benn continues to miss time with a leg laceration on the back of his thigh.
Benn did take the ice in Frisco yesterday, gingerly, and is supposedly on this trip. They've not ruled out Chicago as a possible return target, but they have to be careful not to upset the stitches and infect the leg, as desperately as they need his offense right now.
Sheldon Souray's foot is healed and his conditioning is the only thing standing in the way of his potential return. Gulutzan remarked that Souray is 50/50 for this one tonight. He did skate yesterday and they'll see where he is after morning skate today.
"I feel good," said Souray Monday in Frisco. "Just try to get a couple practices in with the guys and get some of the timing back. I haven't been off too long, so hopefully it shouldn't take too long."
Meanwhile, the lines were shuffled a little toward the end of the game against Nashville, in an apparent effort to get Loui Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder time without Weber and Suter on the ice. No word yet on if the same combos will be used tonight in Montreal. The Steve Ott, Tom Wandell, Tomas Vincour combination hasn't produced much in the way of chances so they may decide to switch it up a little. Here are the lines as they've been without Benn recently:
Kari Lehtonen will start tonight, said Gulutzan Monday. The plan right now is to have Richard Bachman play in Chicago on Thursday and then come back to Lehtonen in a critical game the next night against the visiting Minnesota Wild back in Dallas. They've altered plans before, so we'll see, but Lehtonen has started 10 straight in 17 days as of tonight.
Montreal comes into this one having lost three of their last four, with every defeat coming at home by a combined score of 11-7. A 5-1-1 run before the Hal Gill trade had them thinking a playoff run might happen but now they're struggling a little, six points back of eighth place and looking to stop the bleeding.
The Canadiens power play has connected on 6 of it's last 17 opportunities (35.3%). That's quite an uptick for a team that has a 14.1% power play on the year, good for 28th in the league and even worse than Dallas' 14.7% power play. The Stars have allowed six power play goals against in their last seven games overall. Staying out of the box might be a good idea tonight. The penalty kill has missed Nicklas Grossman since he was traded to the Flyers.
The Montreal penalty kill, on the other hand, is tops in the league: #1 at a sparkling 89.0%.
They're 5th in the league in second period scoring with 63 goals, and they've allowed just 49 in the middle frame all year. That's bad news for a Dallas team that has notorious trouble in the second. The Stars are -17 in the second this season.
The Montreal Gazette takes a look at head coach Randy Cunneyworth's decision to go with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen lately.
There are advantages and disadvantages to Randy Cunneyworth's decision to dress 11 forwards and seven defencemen. It gives the Canadiens head coach some added flexibility. He has an extra defenceman in case of injury. He can double-shift one of his top forwards to add some firepower to one of his bottom lines.
But it can also create some anxiety among the troops concerned about their roles and their ice time. As the Canadiens prepared to meet the Dallas Stars Tuesday night, Cunneyworth said he was trying to balance the ice time so that players don't get too tired nor get rusty sitting on the bench.
"I think that's my intention almost every game," Cunneyworth said Monday after the Canadiens had an optional on-ice practice in Brossard. "Between looking after a line or two coverage wise to make sure we match up, the other part is to keep the other lines involved. Some of that depends on penalties, which there haven't a lot of lately on either side."
The Canadiens recently traded Hal Gill to the Nashville Predators, who Dallas saw on Sunday night. They sent Michael Cammalleri to Calgary earlier in the year, and we saw him last week as well as he scored a goal in a 3-2 loss.
The Canadiens lineup will be something like this...