Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012, 7:30 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: Fear The Fin
If the Dallas Stars are going to carve a path to the postseason that avoids the necessity of gratuitous amounts of help from other teams with just a pair of games to go, they must have this game tonight. They simply must.
"This game either puts us in the driver's seat or takes us out of it, so it's pretty big,'' Gulutzan said Monday. "We're still in a position where we have everything in our control. You've got to win games to get in and it's nice to know that if we do, we control our own destiny."
There are a variety of scenarios that could play out in the season's final three games that would see the Stars take the 8th and final playoff spot in the West, but the only thing that's certain is this: If the Stars win their last three games then they will qualify.
A loss tonight would put their destiny, so to speak, in the hands of others. Mainly these Sharks, who have had their number this season to the tune of winning four of five meetings, out-scoring Dallas 20-8 in the process.
"They'll be a different team playing at home and playing in front of their fans," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan told media on Monday. "They were playing back to back here, and won't have that problem. I'm sure they'll get some healthy bodies back, and I'm sure we'll get a stiffer game than we got here."
Dallas needed a goal with just 1:15 remaining to push the Sharks' last visit here on March 8th to overtime, and eventually a shootout. Tomas Vincour scored the winner in the fifth round to give the Stars their only win this season over San Jose.
"We've been doing it the hard way all year and we're kind of in that spot right now," Brenden Morrow said Saturday. "It's nice to go back home, but we've got our work cut out."
Indeed. More on this one after the jump...
Dallas is hoping to get a healthy body or two back into their lineup to stabilize what's been a carousel on the third and fourth lines lately.
Reported lines from practice in Frisco on Monday were these:
Nystrom sounds like a good bet to return, and Radek Dvorak has been skating on his own. He is questionable tomorrow, but because he didn't practice we wonder if it's more like "doubtful."
Either way the Stars could have as many as four extra healthy bodies to choose from when constructing the third and fourth lines. If Eric Nystrom is able to go then we'd expect him to be back with Vernon Fiddler and what would likely be Tomas Vincour or Adam Burish.
This all seems to leave Brenden Morrow on the fourth line, technically, though he plays on the power play. It also seems to leave rookie Reilly Smith as another healthy scratch.
In their last visit to American Airlines Center, the Joe Thornton line heavily out-chanced the Benn and Ribeiro trios. (Scoring chance report for that one here). Jamie Benn's line was able to push hard against only the Winnik/Moore/Mitchell third line of San Jose's, when Glen Gulutzan was able to get them out there in the right situation.
The Stars did manage to out-chance the Sharks at even strength (17-16) on that night (March 8th). Tom Wandell and Tomas Vincour played together in a fourth line capacity and had by far the most positive numbers of the night, but it looks like Tom Wandell may not even be a part of this one tomorrow.
San Jose may have put themselves in the driver seat Saturday from the perspective of Stars fans, but their players realize how precarious their situation is going forward.
"We have to [keep it perspective]" said Thornton of the win Saturday night. "We've still got three huge games left. We've got to go into Dallas and play like we did tonight, and then two with Los Angeles. But we do get some confidence out of here."
That confidence, combined with the fact that the Sharks have been a nightmare of a match up for Dallas all season long, is a very threatening thing for the Stars tonight. San Jose does have one other demon they're fighting, however, and that's the fact that their road record has been pretty poor of late.
Since the All-Star break the Sharks have dropped 14 of 17 road games (3-11-3), including the shootout loss in Dallas on March 8th. The last time they won a game on the road against a Pacific Division opponent was January 4th in Anaheim. Their last three road games, all losses, were against Pacific Division teams. They were out-scored 10-3 in those contests.
The Sharks have out-scored the Stars 20-8 this season. They've out-shot Dallas 193-129 in the season series. They're 23% on the power play this season against the Stars. The power play discrepancy is 22-12 in favor of San Jose. The Sharks held the Stars, by our count, to six scoring chances Saturday night - The Stars' worst night offensively of the season in that area.
The Sharks players know that special teams have played a huge role in their success against Dallas this year.
That's one thing against Dallas that's been pretty good this year," Clowe said. "We've come out, they've taken some penalties, we've capitalized on the power play and spotted ourselves a couple good leads early." [CSN Bay Area]
Douglas Murray will likely be their only injured player once again tonight.