The Dallas Stars conclude a quick three-game home stand tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, looking to build on a 1-0-1 start that has included impressive efforts against league leaders in the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks.
Gradual improvement and a belief in their team speed has seen Jim Nill and Lindy Ruff's bunch take positive steps in recent weeks, but the possible end of an era is at hand, leaving a gaping hole in the team's defense as Stephane Robidas goes out long term with a broken tibia and fibula suffered in a 2-1 shootout loss to Chicago Friday night.
When last the met the Stars defeated the Oilers 3-0 in Edmonton, somewhat deceptively. Edmonton out-shot Dallas 26-22 and Rich Peverley scored the only real tally in the game before Tyler Seguin and Antoine Roussel added empty netters.
Edmonton enters this one coming off a 4-2 loss in Columbus Friday night despite earning seven power play opportunities.
From Stars PR: "Sunday's contest against the Oilers marks Dallas' ninth of 20 games against Canadian-based teams scheduled for the 2013-14 season. Dallas is 6-1-1 against our neighbors from the North and is currently riding a four-game winning streak against Canadian teams. Forwards JAMIE BENN (4-8=12) and TYLER SEGUIN (7-5=12) share the team-lead with 12 points against Canadian-based clubs. Goaltender KARI LEHTONEN has allowed just 11 goals against Canadian teams this season for a .954 SV%."
Puck drop is an early one - 5:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest proper.
How to reconfigure the Dallas defense. That's the question.
"The tough part is the other pairs have started to play pretty well for us, and I don't know if I want to disrupt them," Ruff said of his thought process. "We'll figure that out."
Leaving Goligoski with Daley and Gonchar with Jordie Benn would leave Brenden Dillon as the one auditioning Kevin Connauton and Jamie Oleksiak. Continuity in two of the remaining pairs would be a plus, but no longer would Dillon's duo be asked to check top lines, in all likelihood.
Dillon with Goligoski was the glimpse Stars fans saw in half of the game Friday night against Chicago, and that might be the way it ultimately goes. The Edmonton Oilers provide the first medium upon which to experiment.
Aaron Rome, lost in most of these conversations, will be an option but not immediately as he's dealing with what Jim Nill calls a tweaked muscle.
The forward lines should stay the same.
Kari Lehtonen should start in the Dallas net.
The lowly Oilers arrive in the midst of a...pretty good stretch of hockey, actually. Emphatic wins over Nashville (3-0), Florida (4-1) and Columbus (7-0!) in their last five outings show what a dangerous and explosive squad this team can be at their best.
After his ill-fated turn with the Philadelphia Flyers Ilya Bryzgalov is back in the West to take another crack at the Stars. The veteran posted a shutout in his first game back against Nashville Thanksgiving night, stopping 33 pucks in the process.
He went back-to-back, however, and lost in Columbus Friday night so it's possible we'll see Devan Dubnyk back in the Oilers net tonight.
If there's one thing the Oilers do well it's score on the power play in bunches. In back-to-back wins last week they converted five of nine opportunities. Without a key penalty killer (yet another way they'll miss him) in Stephane Robidas the Stars could be vulnerable there.
This will be Edmonton's third game in four days.
- Dallas Stars' Stephane Robidas Out 4-6 Months; Jamie Oleksiak Recalled
- Dallas Stars Daily Links: Steven Stamkos Gives Hope For Injured Stephane Robidas
- Dallas Stars Lose Third Period Lead, Stephane Robidas in Loss to Chicago Blackhawks
- Video: Stars' Stephane Robidas Leaves Game Against Chicago Blackhawks with Leg Fracture
- Dallas Stars Prospect Matej Paulovic Released From His OHL Contract