The San Jose Sharks enter this one 1-5-3 in their last nine contests after winning seven straight to open the season. The Dallas Stars enter as a group looking for answers - Allowing 18 goals on 101 shots in the last four games.
For the second straight game to begin a three-contest home stand Thursday night the Stars found themselves spectators in a phenomenal third period for the away team.
"We gave up a couple goals, but we knew two's a tough lead to have," Brenden Morrow commented. "So we kept working we may get some breaks. We got one and we took a couple penalties. It's tough to create anything when you're short."
They were short for the final 2:00 minutes of the game, rendering a comeback effort almost non-existent. Meanwhile San Jose comes in on the second night of a back-to-back after short travel from Chicago, having lost to the Blackhawks by a tally of 2-1 Thursday.
San Jose has been out-shot or tied with the opposition in each of their last five games.
From Stars PR: "Seven different skaters have made their Dallas Stars debut this season, and each have tallied at least one point so far. JAROMIR JAGR leads the newcomers with 11 points (4G-7A), followed closely by CODY EAKIN (2G-7A-9 PTS) and DEREK ROY (1G-8A-9 PTS). Rookie ANTOINE ROUSSEL has notched four points (3G-1A) this season, with three of them (2G-1A) coming during his current three-game point-streak."
The puck drops tonight at 7:00pm CST~ on Fox Sports Southwest.
Injuries continue to be the name of the game for Dallas as big-name players in Kari Lehtonen, Ray Whitney and Trevor Daley continue to miss time with various upper and lower body ailments. Nevertheless Dallas is expected to hit the ice with roughly the same lineup that faced Vancouver Thursday night.
The Benn and Roy lines continue to generate the most offensive chances, while Cody Eakin's trio searches for consistency a bit. Depth scoring from what's being termed the "third line" could go a long way toward a Dallas victory tonight.
Meanwhile the Stars are expected to miss yet another game with dynamic puck-moving defenseman Trevor Daley, who is dealing a neck issue right now.
"We hope that he is going to be a morning skate guy tomorrow, but playing is highly unlikely," opined Gulutzan on Daley.
Much of the intrigue surrounding tonight's contest will be concerning which goaltender gets the start for Dallas. Gulutzan was unwilling to name a starter after Friday's practice, but we should know during morning skate today between 10:30-11:00am. Who's your guess? Does Nilstorp deserve another shot, or does Bachman get a chance to jump back in and claim the backup spot for his own?
San Jose has been struggling offensively, scoring just 11 total goals in their last 9 games (1.222 per game) en route to a 1-5-3 record after a powerful 7-0-0 start to the year.
To be fair they've suffered three different regulation losses to the Chicago Blackhawks in that span, as well as the St. Louis Blues and red-hot Anaheim Ducks, so it's not as if they're mailing it in with an easy schedule.
What the Stars have to be wary of tonight is being the cure for what ails this Sharks bunch who has scored two or fewer goals in nine of its last ten games. Cristopher Nilstorp. Richard Bachman... whoever. Someone needs to come up big tonight in Lehtonen's absence lest the Sharks abundantly talented forward group break through, or even worse, their defensive core as did Vancouver's Thursday.
The Sharks lineup could look something like this...
The average size and potential speed of this lineup will give the Stars fits. Adam Burish returns on their fourth line looking to make in impact as well, and wearing #37, no less -though he wore it many years before. That it might be a fitting tribute to his late teammate might be only a convenient side effect.
Our friends at Fear The Fin, also SB Nation property, told us late Friday night that there's a chance Niemi could start back-to-back in Dallas Saturday, but it's only speculation. Check in with us after lunch for morning skate updates.