Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ Colorado Avalanche (8:00pm CST)

Doug Pensinger

A crucial home-and-home with the Avs starts tonight in Denver following the Stars' 6-4 win over Winnipeg Saturday.

Tyler Seguin and the Dallas Stars know that the hour is later than it seems.

"It's still early, but it's really not," Seguin told media Sunday. "This road trip we're on we are really trying to bear down on points."

Thanks to historic point-paces in the Western Conference thanks to 30 games each against much weaker Eastern opponents the race is already desperate for the lower third of the pack, and the Stars have to catch a couple of the foes ahead of them to reach their goal.

Foes like these Colorado Avalanche.

The Avs were picked by most in the preseason to be a bit of a project. A team in transition. A young team. A mess.

But each season brings surprises, and the Avalanche were, by a large margin, the league's biggest in winning 14 of their first 16 games. They stockpiled points and authoritatively grasped one of the precious few playoff spots in the West, seemingly, before the Stars could even find their game and start building with a new roster and a new coach.

Since then, however, they've won seven and lost eight (now 21-9-1), and while they're still sitting pretty in the standings, they're sliding. Slowly, but it's a slide.

Patrick Roy's bunch has dropped four of six (2-3-1) heading into this one, now challenged with a steady diet of Western foes after 8 of those first 14 wins came against the East. They've lost four of six at home, also a 2-3-1 in mark in that span, and have been kept to a single goal in every one of those Pepsi Center defeats.

Colorado has scored one power play goal at home in their last 21 chances dating back to October 22nd, but special teams play isn't what kills them, as they've allowed their opponents 1, 2, 0, 1, and 1 power plays in their last five at Pepsi Center. At just 96 times shorthanded this year the Avs are the second least penalized team in the league.

So if you're going to beat them, and boy it would be very valuable to, your best bet is to do it at even strength. But then there's their goaltenders. Semyon Varlamov (14-8-1, 2.40 GAA and .923 save %) and J.S. Giguere (7-1-0 with a 1.84 GAA and .940 save %) will probably both get their turns in this back-to-back.

And Colorado's 4th best save percentage would seem a distinct advantage over a duo for Dallas that will include Dan Ellis, be it tonight or tomorrow, and the as-of-late slightly off kilter Kari Lehtonen.

If the Stars, dare you to dream, could sweep this set, a 43-35 point difference closes to just four.

They'll try to reach that improbable dream with a lineup that looks something like this, though there was no reporting out of practice Sunday, so this could easily change:

Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin
Cole-Eakin-Chiasson
Whitney-Peverley-Garbutt
Roussel-Horcoff-Sceviour

With Sceviour's goal, taking him out of the lineup would seem an improbable proposition.

The Stars out-chanced and out-attempted the Avalanche in their previous visit to Denver on October 15th, but walked away with a 3-2 loss while Patrick Roy quipped "I guess goaltending is crucial in this league."

Vern Fiddler is questionable to return tonight at the very most. Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley, of course, are out. Noted Star killer Alex Tanguay is out in the Avs' only injury of note.

Their forward lineup will look something like this:

O-Reilly-Duchene-Mackinnon
Landeskog-Stastny-Parenteau
McGinn-Mitchell-Talbot
Bordeleau-Cliche-McLeod

The puck will drop on this one at just after 8:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest proper.

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