The Phoenix Coyotes are next up for the Dallas Stars with a home-and-home series concluding tomorrow night at Jobing.com Arena. Tonight the American Airlines Center crowd will hope for a repeat performance of Dallas' 4-3 opening night win over Dave Tippett's squad, thus avoiding a hurtful fifth straight loss.
Despite the return of Jamie Benn to the Stars' lineup on Monday Dallas has seen their goals per game drop to 27th in the league at 1.86, including four total goals in four road games. Derek Roy's continued absence coupled with a near dearth of scoring from the bottom-six forward group has made for lean times, and the Stars hope a little home cooking, along with staying out of the penalty box, will help them create more scoring chances.
The lease agreement deadline expiration in Greg Jamison's efforts to purchase the team from the NHL last night looms large off the ice, but the Stars can expect Shane Doan and coach Tippett to have the team ready on it to avenge a 2-1 overtime loss to Edmonton on Wednesday.
Dallas finished 3-2-1 against the Coyotes last year - the first time in five season they had a winning record overall against them, or at home - so Phoenix plays very well here as a rule.
Expect Phoenix to get their MVP Mike Smith back just in time for this weekend's games against the Stars, while Dallas tries to protect their net at the other end with a new look on the blue line...
(Puck drop should be about 7:37pm CST on FSSW PLUS)
"We want to get a little heavier in some of these games on the backend," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan told media Thursday morning of Oleksiak, "and he's played so well in the American Hockey League. Like our other young defensemen, he deserves an opportunity. We want to give him a chance to see what he can do."
The Stars surrendered 40 shots to the Coyotes on opening night at American Airlines Center, so the rookie could be fairly busy in his first outing as the Dallas blue line continues to see changes.
Lines from Stars practice on Thursday were reportedly these:
Derek Roy is not expected to be available for either game this weekend, but Gulutzan says the team is hopeful he can return at the beginning of a three-game road swing beginning in Colorado on Monday night.
That leaves Cody Eakin in with Ray Whitney and Michael Ryder, and Tom Wandell on the 4th line, but it seems the team could scratch him, leaving no true center on a fourth line comprised of Brenden Morrow, Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt.
That Oleksiak will play and that he was paired with Alex Goligoski could indicate that regulars Jordie Benn (or Aaron Rome) and Philip Larsen could both be scratched tonight as the club carries eight healthy defensemen for the time being. Check back here after morning skate for news on who is expected to be in the lineup for certain.
One of the big stories of the early going in Phoenix is their ever-improving power play. 29th in the league last year, just a tenth of a percentage point better than the historically bad Dallas man-advantage, the Coyotes set out to change their mind-set and personnel on the matter over the off-season and early returns are big.
Phoenix has scored eight power play goals (at least one in five of six games) on the year and their percentage is north of 25%. Over a third of their offense is coming from the power play, including two of the three goals scored here in Dallas on opening night.
Like most teams in this shortened season the Coyotes arrive with their share of injury concerns. The Arizona Republic reports that G Mike Smith and D Rostislav Klesla have been practicing this week and could likely be back in the lineup tonight. Both have been dealing with lower body injuries.
The status of C Martin Hanzal and Steve Sullivan is unknown at this point, as both are day to day with lower body injuries. The Coyotes are without C Matthew Lombardi for approximately a month thanks to an upper-body concern.
Even with those missing pieces their offense hums along as one of the best in the league at 3.14 goals per game. On the flip side they shut-out the Predators on Monday, then allowed only a single goal to the Oilers in regulation Wednesday night. They held both of those opponents to a scant 21 shots on goal each.
Here are the lines Phoenix used against Edmonton, primarily.
Again, Sullivan and Hanzal may or may not be in tonight. Dave Tippett told media this week that he'd be surprised if Mike Smith weren't ready for these games against Dallas, so expect him on both nights, potentially.