Wednesday, March 14th, 2012, 7:30 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Arctic Ice Hockey
The Dallas Stars continue to barely hold off a hard charging crowd of Western Conference teams behind them with yet another win. This time time it was a 1-0 shutout of the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul that extended their 11 game point streak. Tonight they look for just their second win of the year on the second night of a back to back when they take on the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Center.
Sometimes the object of this game gets over-complicated. Score more goals than your opponent does the trick. The Stars haven't found the net much lately, but they won't allow the opposition to find it at all. In their incredible 10-0-1 stretch, the Dallas Stars have allowed exactly 15 goals against in 11 games. (1.36 GA/G).
Goaltending has been the biggest part of it.
"We played really solid, especially five-on-five,'' Kari Lehtonen said after his second consecutive shutout. "They got a couple of chances on the power play. It was just good to get the win and just enough goals for us."
Gulutzan was mum on whether he'd start Lehtonen in Winnipeg in a back to back situation in an effort to continue the momentum. The guess here is that Richard Bachman will start while the big Finn rests up for a mammoth game against Chicago on Friday.
The Jets, meanwhile, enter in a state of desperation, playing for their playoff lives with just 72 points on the year. They've won five fewer games than they've lost this year (32-37, ignoring the points awarded for losing in this league) and sit six points behind eighth place Washington as the night begins.
The Dallas Stars play their first and only game of the season against the Winnipeg Jets (formerly Atlanta Thrashers) on Wednesday night. This will be Dallas' first game in Winnipeg since April 3, 1996, a 3-1 loss.
Much more on each team after the jump...
Radek Dvorak and Sheldon Souray remain questionable, if not doubtful for this one. Mark Fistric left last night's game briefly in the third period but returned to finish it out and should be a player for the Stars Wednesday. If not, Jordie Benn may be called upon in relief.
The lines should stay relatively the same and look like this:
We've now watched six consecutive periods of Stars hockey without having to lament a goal against, thanks to the brilliance of Kari Lehtonen. The last time the Dallas Stars organization had back to back shutouts was in December of 2006 when Marty Turco blanked the Sharks and the Coyotes back to back.
That all being said, it's assumed that Richard Bachman will start the second night of the back to back in Winnipeg while Lehtonen gets rested for a gargantuan game against the Chicago Blackhawks this coming Friday at American Airlines Center.
From Stars PR: "The Stars have an 11-1-1 all-time record against the Jets/Thrashers franchise and are undefeated against them in regulation (5-0-1) in road games. In fact, the Stars have a higher points percentage against the Jets (.885) than against any other team in the NHL."
Chicago won last night. Calgary won. San Jose got a point. Los Angeles won. The teams both at the bottom and top of the standings continue to do the Stars whatever the opposite of a favor is, and as such the Stars cannot create separation, despite winning nearly every game they've played recently. It's a harsh reality to accept. They must soldier on and collect as many wins as they can in the face of these brutal circumstances if they are to sniff the eight seed.
The Jets, somehow, enjoyed a four day break in preparation for this one after they lost in Calgary on Friday night. Their road woes have them on the outside looking in where the Eastern Conference playoff picture is concerned.
"There's a lot of emphasis in the media on the road and the 11 wins," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "We know these things. We knew this from the onset of the season. We said we were going to have to be close to .500 to even legitimately have a chance. We're way below .500 and we're still knocking on the door. We're fortunate from that standpoint."
The reason they are still knocking on the door, their excellent home record, is something the Stars will get to see first hand tonight, and the Jets are in desperation mode at this point.
Their 21-10-4 record at MTS Center was inflated by a 12-3-1 stretch in November and December, but they're still quite good there, going 6-2-2 at home since the All-Star break. They're one of the best offensive teams in the league at home, average nearly three goals a game (2.914) but muster just 2.20 on the road, good for 25th.
They've lost five of their last eight overall, though twice in overtime/shootouts. Calgary went a perfect three for three on the power play against them on Friday.
The Jets went 10 of 19 (holy cow) on the power play in a six game stretch recently before failing to score one in each of their last three games. Even with those they're 10 of their last 26. The Stars must find a way to stay clean tonight on the second night of a back to back, because that Jets power play has run some folks out of the building this year.
"We're going to move forward and attack Monday and Tuesday with vim and vigour and then Wednesday we're pouring everything into the game. We're going to play this thing like a playoff game," said Noel.
Their expected lineup:
The Jets media is all talking about forward Eric Fehr and a "last chance" for him being given due to a lower body injury to Christ Thorburn.
The assumption is that Pavelec will be in net.