Thursday, February 9th, 2012, 6:00 PM CST
Opponent Blog: The Cannon
There were many descriptions of the Stars' effort against the Coyotes Tuesday night, and none of them were particularly flattering.
"Awful, atrocious. I don't know," said Sheldon Souray. "We can talk about it and try to figure it out and point fingers, but really as a whole, we've really been letting ourselves down, especially as important as this stretch of games is and what it means."
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, may be completely out of the playoff picture but they're dead set on dragging the rest of the West down with them, starting with an important (to some) 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild at home on Tuesday while the Stars were dropping a 4-1 decision to Phoenix.
The Stars say they realize the danger they face tonight.
"At this juncture, this is an even match-up and we have to make sure we're ready to play,'' said Glen Gulutzan on Wednesday in Dallas.
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two clubs. Dallas holds a 2-1-0 edge in the series but their last match-up, a 4-1 win for Columbus at the AAC, has been used as an example of the disappointing results that can happen when the Stars don't give their all. The Jackets were 0-5-1 heading into that one and had the league's worst road record, yet skated out of Dallas with the easy victory.
This time around the Jackets have won two in a row and if not for an apparent clock malfunction in Los Angeles, perhaps could have won three in a row. Regardless, they're feeling better about themselves and the Stars are looking for answers. It should be an interesting tilt tonight at 6:00pm. (Remember that early start!)
More after the jump...
Trailing by one in the late stages of the second period and early stages of the third, the Stars had no offensive presence in the game Tuesday. No puck possession. Few scoring chances to speak of. Many wonder in that situation if they would consider switching up the lines to find some chemistry and mount a comeback, but aside from Eric Nystrom reuniting with his mates Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak briefly there didn't appear to be much in the way of switching.
What about between games?
"You run the risk of how much experimenting do you do?" Gulutzan said Wednesday. "We might change some things just to try something different, but changing the lines is just reshuffling the cards. There's no magic elixir or potion. This is about digging in."
It's an interesting argument. Consistency from game to game is important and sometimes maybe you want to let chemistry solidify and develop rather than scrambling to see if anything clicks instantaneously.
Either way, it appears the forward combinations will remain the same. The Stars have scored 6, 2, 1, and 1 goals since the break. They've scored a total of 17 in their last 10 games, and that's with the six goal aberration in Anaheim last week. Expect tonight to see this again:
It's been presumed that Lehtonen will get the start, but as of this writing late Wednesday night nothing has been confirmed. The Stars have struggled (or failed completely) to win a game on the second night of a back to back and Buffalo looks to be the more formidable opponent right now (4-0-1 in their last five, coming off a 6-0 shellacking of the Bruins) so it does make you wonder if switching things up would be good jolt. All four points up for grab are absolutely crucial, but giving points to one or the other matters not. What say you?
The Blue Jackets:
They may be last in the Western Conference, but the Blue Jackets like where they sit this morning from the view points of progress and effort.
"I think the last nine periods now, we aren't perfect, we make our mistakes, but the hard work usually makes up for those mistakes," said coach Todd Richards. "We've got players now that are committed to having each others back."
Those nine periods would be a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild at home, a 3-2 win in Anaheim, and a 3-2 loss that they felt should have at least gone to overtime in Los Angeles, but the now famous clock snafu took their reward, perhaps, after a solid effort that evening.
If ever there were a time for the Stars power play to get healthy, it might be tonight. The Jackets have the league's absolute worst penalty kill, and they've allowed nine power play goals on their last 28 attempted kills. A failed four minute power play was the turning point for the Stars Tuesday night.
Columbus might be down right bad (statistically, anyway) at most everything else but one area in which they excel is faceoffs, and if you recall the game in San Jose last week, that's something that can absolutely give the Stars fits. Especially on the road. The Jackets rank 7th in the league at 51.4%.
Steve Mason may have shut down the Stars' offense in late December, but it doesn't appear they'll be seeing him again this year. After allowing six goals to the San Jose Sharks in Columbus' first game back from the All-Star break he has been firmly glued to the bench in lieu of Curtis Sanford.
Sanford has started the last three for Columbus and has won the last two. He's stopped 91 of 97 shots faced in that time, good for a .938 save percentage. He has earned 10 of the Jackets' 15 wins this year, and at 10-12-4, they get points more often that not when he starts.