Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars Host San Jose Sharks (7:30pm CDT)

Dilip Vishwanat

The Stars face their stiffest test of the season as league-leading San Jose returns to the American Airlines Center Thursday night.

The San Jose Sharks appear to be the best team in the NHL right now, and it isn't even close.

They've scored 30 goals in just six games. They've allowed nine, and never more than two in a single game. They've slayed the Canucks with ease, twice, and are coming off a 6-2 win against the then undefeated St. Louis Blues.

They've converted 8 of their 30 (five per game) power play chances, good for 27%.

They're #1 in offense this season. They're #2 in goals against per game this season. They have the best 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio at an absurd 3.17. They're #2 in shots allowed per game at 23.5. They have the best Corsi% and best Fenwick%, for the advanced metric crowd.

They are just flat out the best thing going now by any measurement or evaluation anyone could want to employ.

The 2-3-0 Dallas Stars face them tonight in the dreaded first game back from a road trip on a two-game losing streak, and without Kari Lehtonen. Faceoff is just after 7:37 tonight on Fox Sports Southwest and Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket with Ralph and Razor on the call.

It is the first post-Pacific division meeting between the two.

The Stars:

Dallas, outside of a seven-minute outburst in Winnipeg last week, has been in need of more offensive production. Lindy Ruff was fairly blunt Wednesday about where it needs to be generated.

"We just need some secondary scoring," he opined. "We can turn the game in our direction, but we haven't been able to get the goal from our secondary guys and that puts a lot of pressure on our top line."

Having said that, the lines from which that secondary scoring is expected to come will probably remain largely unchanged.

Benn-Seguin-Peverley
Whitney-Eakin-Chiasson
Roussel-Horcoff-Cole
Garbutt-Fiddler-MacDermid

There is a chance that Valeri Nichushkin, a healthy scratch in Colorado, could draw back in on that fourth line and we'll update that after morning skate. The defensive pairings should be as they have been. Aaron Rome continues a conditioning assignment in Cedar Park this week.

Kari Lehtonen is on IR with a lower body, presumed groin, injury. He has been working out on the ice, and a determination of his status for the weekend will likely be made on Friday.

"What I see there is depth of scoring, three lines that create a lot and a very good power play," said Ruff of the Sharks on Wednesday. "They're a team, a little bit like Colorado, that has good speed up front and they are getting a little bit of creativity from the back end."

The Sharks:

San Jose's dominant win over the Blues Tuesday night took on a bitter flavor after veteran Dan Boyle went awkwardly into the boards as Maxim Lapierre finished a routine check. Boyle was taken off on a stretcher and has since been taken back to San Jose.

See the play on YouTube here. It's part bad luck and part poor discretion of Lapierre's part, who should have let up and not finished his check.

Either way, the Sharks will be without Dan Boyle and his near 20-minute contribution tonight.

Even so, it's not much of a disadvantage for San Jose, who rolls their lines and defensive pairs with impunity. Consider the minute distribution of blue-liners: Braun (20:39), Vlasic (20:21), Irwin (19:34), Boyle (19:20), Demers (18:41), Hannan (17:27).

They're not leaning on a Weber or a Keith or a Suter. They're rolling them and letting the chips fall where they may - Decidedly in their favor. Strong coaching and a strong scheme with help for the forwards means the impact of the loss of Boyle will be minimum.

The lineup:

Hertl-Thornton-Burns
Kennedy-Couture-Marleau
Nieto-Pavelski-Wingels
Sheppard-Desjardins-Pelech

Irwin-Stuart
Vlasic-Braun
Demers-Hannan

Niemi

They're deep down the middle. They're deep on the wings. They have both size and speed. Ruff has not shown great interest in matching up with certain lines in the early going, but it will be interesting to see what he must do in this one to try and keep his club within striking distance if things don't get ugly too early.

Check out SB Nation site Fear the Fin for you San Jose Shark needs.

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