The Dallas Stars, after dropping a 3-2 shootout decision in San Jose on Saturday night, went to Staples Center to collect one of their finest victories of the year, beating the Kings 5-2 to collect three out of a very tough four points on a short California road jaunt.
The question heading into Friday's game against the Nashville Predators is: Can they keep any of that momentum after a three-day Christmas break?
Dallas finds themselves now with five straight at home for the first time this season, having played the league's fewest home games at just 15. Only three teams have fewer home victories this season (Detroit, Edmonton, Islanders) than the Stars at seven. They can even things up at eight losses and eight wins at the American Airlines Center tonight if they start getting some things figured out.
Things like that home power play 2-for-55 for a league worst 3.6%, compared to a road unit that is slightly above average sitting at 13th in the league (17.6%).
Nashville, meanwhile, enters losers of four straight after a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of Reilly Smith and those Boston Bruins, but have won four of their last six on the road. Their approach to the game will keep them in it, but the perpetual search for offense trudges on there. It's up to Dallas to keep them looking tonight.
Puck drop is at 7:30pm CST downtown, or else on your television on Fox Sports Southwest.
New information on the Stars and their personnel was non-existent this week due to the new CBA's mandated 72-hour break taken the 24th, 25th and 26th (to be taken the 23rd, 24th and 25th on years when the 26th is a Saturday...). So the Stars enjoyed an extra day with their families and friends this year.
Interestingly that means that teams will travel on the morning of the games Friday, and if you look at the schedule (CGY/EDM, SJS/PHX, COL/CHI, MIN/WPG, etc...) it's clear that it was not forgotten in the season's scheduling. The Stars get Nashville on a same-travel-day, but the effect of such short flights will be minimum.
Dallas sent Maxime Fortunus back to the Texas Stars on Christmas Eve, leading to speculation that either Aaron Rome or Segei Gonchar could be ready to return to the lineup tonight- So we'll see at morning skate.
At any rate, after such a fine win in Los Angeles, you'd expect the forward combinations to remain largely intact:
A five game home-stand sit before them- Will Ruff try to get Dan Ellis into one of these games, and if so, isn't Nashville one of the more logical choices as St. Louis and L.A. come after them? Again, we shall see.
From Stars PR: "The Dallas Stars open up a five-game homestand on Friday as the team will host the Nashville Predators in the second of five matchups between the two Central Division rivals. Dallas fell to the Predators, 3-1, in the first contest between the two squads in Nashville on Dec. 12. Forward ERIK COLE, who scored Dallas' lone goal against Nashville on Dec. 12, comes into Friday's tilt having scored goals in back-to-back games against the Predators and has points in three of his last four contests against them (2-1=3)."
Their win over Dallas two weeks ago was the second in a three-game streak, but since then things have turned sour once more for Trotz's bunch. Losses to Boston, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Chicago make for an 0-3-1 stretch and they've given up 17 goals in the stretch.
The three consecutive losses against Eastern Conference opponents makes them just the second team in the West to now have a losing record against the league's demonstratively weaker half. Edmonton is the other.
Nashville broke a nasty drought on their power play against Dallas on the 12th and carry it as a strength still heading into this one with man-advantage goals in six straight, scoring eight times in all.
Compare that to just six even strength goals in their last six, however, and it's not hard to formulate a game plan for this evening. Stay out of the box.
(The dearth of offense and the sub-.500 record have our friends at SB Nation's Nashville blog "On the Forecheck"thinking about the future, and about acquiring talent.)
Their lineup, or something close to it:
Pekka Rinne remains out, though getting very close to practicing, so this will likely be the Stars' last chance to "miss him."
Nashville frustrated Dallas with their conservative play after taking a lead late in the first period after two quick power play goals changed, and ultimately sealed the game. If Dallas can build a lead and keep it, they'll force Nashville out of their comfort zone and create more opportunities.