Saturday, April 7th, 2012, 7:00 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: Jp Rutherford
Tonight's game against the St. Louis Blues is fan appreciation night at the American Airlines Center. Jerseys and keepsakes will be given away as fans say goodbye for another off-season, but the group down at ice level is still trying to figure out just exactly what happened in the last two weeks after such a masterful performance put them in the driver's seat where the playoffs were concerned, and that includes the team's new owner.
"I think to properly comment on it you need to take some time because the highs are too high and the lows are too low," said Galardi via ESPN Dallas. "Seven or ten days ago, we were really proud of what the guys had done in terms of we were the second hottest team in the league since the All-Star break. We put ourselves from kind of out of it into being in it, and feeling like we're pretty certain we're going to be in the playoffs. Then a stretch of games where we lost our mojo, kind of forgot how to win."
The Stars have indicated that they're going to start several younger players/bodies in this one, not only to display them to the hockey-going public, but because much of the Stars' roster has been playing through significant pain and injury, as most clubs are doing these days.
"I talked to every player that's injured and they all want to play our last game, whether they have to take a needle or not to get through," said Gaglardi. "But reality is, we don't want to put them through that."
St. Louis, meanwhile, enters trying to end their regular season on a high note after dropping four straight as the league's "number one team". They dropped a 4-1 decision last night to the Phoenix Coyotes, who take over possession of 3rd place in the West with the victorry. A win for Dave Tippett's bunch on tonight against the Wild can clinch the Pacific for them as a result.
Remember, this finale is on Fox Sports Southwest PLUS!
More on each team after the jump...
"Yeah, Bachman will be in goal and you're going see a few of our young guys," said Gulutzan. "You'll see Brenden Dillon and Scott Glennie, and you'll see Reilly Smith tomorrow with our veteran guys. We're going to surround those guys with players that can help them out, and we've got a few injuries so you won't see a few players."
It's an interesting juxtaposition in motivation, as the Blues have been carrying with them the title of "Top Team" in the NHL for a while now, but come into this one having lost four straight games. They'll want to focus on this one and get right for their opening round playoff series against possibly the Kings or Sharks.
The Stars, meanwhile, have been mathematically eliminated and will showcase some of their young talent in order to get some of their injured veterans started on the right foot where the off-season is concerned.
Steve Ott, Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Radek Dvorak, Stephane Robidas and Mark Fistric all have some lingering injuries through which they've been playing, and they're all likely to sit tonight. A glimpse of the future and a nice carrot for the young guys is the order of the day as St. Louis comes to town.
"We've had guys taking injections here, everyday, to get through a game. These same players can't get through a practice without it, so you won't see a couple of those guys in tomorrow's lineup."
Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow really represent the most substantive injuries here. Ribeiro has a partially torn MCL that he's been playing with since before the All-Star break. Brenden Morrow's back and neck problems have been well documented, and he's been navigating a very serious situation for most of the season. Don't be surprised if he takes a swift path toward long term, permanent recovery in the coming days (surgery?).
This all leaves line combinations both simultaneously the greatest item of intrigue tonight, and also the biggest question mark. We'll update after morning skate, but with Glennie, Smith, Petersen, and perhaps others coming into the forward group, it could really be a surprise.
As the Gultuzan quote indicates above, Richard Bachman will close out the season for Dallas, meaning Kari Lehtonen's commendable year is over. Bachman last faced the Blues on December 26th, and should have a bit of unfinished business to conduct personally if that sub-par night is remembered.
St. Louis enters as the absolute top team in the West, but floundering a bit having lost four straight entering their season finale (0-2-2).
"This is what happens when you play with skill ahead of work," Hitchcock said Friday night. "Their level of defensive and checking commitment confused and frustrated our players...We wanted the game to be easier, and it wasn't."
Ken Hitchcock is not one to rest players, generally, and he will keep his horses out there to win this one, needing to generate a bid of positive momentum as the playoffs approach.
More than pride, St. Louis still has home-ice advantage in the West on the line. A win against Dallas tonight coupled with a Vancouver loss could guarantee the Blues home-ice throughout the Western half of the bracket, ahead of the feared Canucks. Hitch and his crew will be locked in on righting their ship and reclaiming what's been theirs for months now.
The Blues' woes go beyond the four straight they've lost - They have actually lost eight of their last eleven overall entering this final game of the regular season. Still that's a record of 3-4-4, showing once again what good teams do, in comparison to what non-playoff teams do: Even when the lose, they lose in overtime. They keep the game close.