Friday, March 2nd, 2012, 8:30 PM CST
Opponent Blog: The Copper & Blue
The Dallas Stars closed a three-game home stand on Wednesday with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins and now embark on a big Western Canadian road swing with an eye on staying in the Western Conference's playoff picture.
The Stars liked their effort against the Penguins even though they failed to pick up the full two points.
"I think we outplayed them 5-on-5," said Jamie Benn Wednesday night. "We just took too many penalties and we had our chance to win there in overtime on the power play and didn't get it done."
The Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames inched closer to the Stars with points on Thursday night, but the Colorado Avalanche missed out on a golden opportunity to take eighth place away from Dallas when they lost to the Blue Jackets, in Denver no less. San Jose remains just two points ahead with 73 after a 1-0 loss to the Sabres Thursday night.
Edmonton, meanwhile, shouldn't be easily dismissed. Though firmly out of the playoff race yet again, their 8-6-2 record in their last 16 games is just as good as the Stars 8-5-3 record over the same span. They're more than capable of putting the puck in the net (3.06 goals per game over the 16 contests) but just as bad at keeping it out (3.12 goals against in the same span). Dallas went 1-1-0 in two games at Rexall last season.
Please remember that this is a Fox Sports Southwest PLUS game. The game will be joined in progress on Fox Sports proper upon the completion of Mavs Live following the basketball game.
Much more on each team after the jump...
Dallas might get their captain back during this stretch run, albeit later rather than sooner.
"Progressing pretty good," Morrow said Thursday morning. "This is the first skate in about three weeks and so far no pain. I guess that's a good sign." He'll take it easy and ramp up his workouts and skates
In the mean time expect to see the same lineup from the Penguins game:
Dallas has given up only 10 goals in their last six road games - A stinginess they badly need to carry into this road swing. The penalty kill has been a massive part of keeping scores low. The Stars continue to give up far more power plays against than they earn, but the PK unit has killed 26 of the last 28 (92.9%). If they can't alleviate the chances against, they'll have to keep it up. (It's even more impressive when you consider most of that was done without Nick Grossman in the lineup)
A secondary story line in this one, far apart from the critical playoff implications, is the return of Sheldon Souray to Edmonton. Souray hasn't played a game in Edmonton since January of 2010 - Two whole calendar years. His reception could be icy, and his motivation could bubble over into bad penalties (or perhaps a nice goal?). Only time will tell.
The Toronto Sun has a pretty fair look at the Souray saga here, noting that he liked the city, the fans, and his teammates. Just not Tambellini, which is a view point shared by many up there.
Kari Lehtonen will start in net for Dallas. With games every other day, Richard Bachman probably won't see another start until the Minnesota/Winnipeg back to back later in the month, but you never know what will happen on these Western Canadian road swings.
Kari Lehtonen is 5-2-0 against Edmonton in his career with a 2.43 GAA and .918 save percentage.
Edmonton is streaky home this year. They've followed up a 4-0-1 stretch at Rexall with a 1-0-4 run leading into this one, so it's hard to say what kind of competition the Stars will face tonight. Like I said yesterday, however, the Sharks, Red Wings, Canucks, Blackhawks, Kings, Blues and Rangers have all walked into this building and lost this year. They have a talented roster and can beat anyone on any given night. Like the Stars, consistency is what stands in their way.
Edmonton made a bit of a splash at the deadline, acquiring Nick Schultz from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Tom Gilbert. Let's see what The Copper & Blue think of the move...Does it make them better?
No. No it doesn't. It doesn't even make them a little bit better. It, in fact, makes them worse. This isn't just because Tom Gilbert is fantastic, but let's just dwell on that part of things for a moment. Last season, Gilbert made virtually everyone he played with better. This year, it's more of the same. Gilbert has been taking on the toughs, and the Oilers are still miles better when he's on the ice. We've talked a lot about Gilbert here, but let's just put it out there: Tom Gilbert is excellent.
Schultz has been third on the team in five-on-five time on ice per game in each of the last two years, and has continued to start predominantly in his own zone. But his Corsi has taken a bit of a beating, and this year his Relative Corsi is last among regular defenders on a very bad Wild team even though he's not been given the toughest match-ups. That looks to me like a defenseman in decline.
They don't sound overly thrilled.
The Oilers penalty kill has been a little leaky as of late, allowing seven power play goals over their last ten games. (23 of 30 = 76.6% on the kill).
Nikolai Khabibulin might be ready to return after missing five games with a groin injury, but do they want him to? The Bulin wall has lost 11 of last 12 starts dating back to Christmas. The Oilers are 7-5-1 in Dubnyk's last 12 starts, however, so that might seem a safer bet.
Khabibulin took the 4-1 (EN) loss in Dallas on November 21st, stopping 31 of 34 shots he faced.