It feels like it has been longer than just fiver games since Kari Lehtonen went out with a groin injury. Luckily, though, during that time the Stars have managed to grab five out of ten possible points, to hold their ground in the standings.
During those five games, the Stars have allowed a total of 18 goals. On 131 shots, that's a miserable save percentage of .863. The Dallas Stars have definitely missed Kari Lehtonen.
With his return tonight, the Stars hope to reduce their goals against, while maintaining the offensive pressure that they seem to have found lately. For eleven straight games, the Stars have scored at least three goals in each game -- a feat that would seem unimaginable just a season or two ago. It seems as though every line has been clicking lately, getting depth scoring as well as goals from players that you expect to hit the twine with regularity.
Tonight, there will be a little mix of the chemistry, as Erik Cole replaces Michael Ryder in the line up. Hopefully, he will be able to fit in well with his new teammates, and cash in on the offensive presence that the Stars have had as of late. Being a 35 goal scorer last season, he is certainly capable of doing it.
Of course, he was brought in for more than just that. If GM Joe had traded for him just because he put in 35 last season, it would be a bit of a moot point, since Ryder matched that total. The Stars need a little more defensive responsibility out of their forwards, and that is what they will be getting with Cole.
Cole is not a cure all to the defensive woes that this team has had, but every little bit certainly helps. After all, when three of your six defensemen are rookies, there are naturally going to be some issues on defense, no matter how promising those players look. They still have to learn to play the game at the NHL level, and that takes time. In the meanwhile, defensive responsibility from the forwards can help to alleviate some of that pressure.
Being a tough guy who is not afraid to throw around some hits helps too. Erik Cole's toughness and style of play is similar to that of Brenden Morrow's, in that he drives hard to the net, and that is often how he is rewarded with goals. The toughness issue was one that was present at the beginning of the season for this team, and that, in my opinion, has been properly addressed now. This team can hit, fight when they need to (and even when they don't need to), and has scored a number of goals over the last set of games by crashing the front of the net. Cole should only add to that presence.
Head Coach Glen Gulutzan says that is how he plans on using Cole tonight as well, even if he isn't sure just yet of where to slot him in the lineup.
The Stars think Cole's style of hockey will provide a power forward element to the lineup.
"He's a big, strong guy that likes to go to the net," said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. "He plays hard, gives us size, speed and strength. That will be a nice acquisition for us."
Gulutzan said he was still contemplating his options as far as where Cole will play Thursday night, but said the left-handed Cole will likely play right wing.
"He's a left shot that plays on the right side," said Gulutzan. "I've got some ideas and I am going to sit down and think about it. I would guess the right side."
Hopefully he Stars can play a complete game from the net on out tonight, and start things off on the right track with their new forward.
Coming up in today's links: More on the upcoming game, and the presence of Cole, a crazy game between the Wings and Kings, and how exactly the NHL can relate to Nascar.
- Mark Stepneski has his matchup of tonight's game, including a comparison of stats. [Stars Inside Edge]
- Cole is looking forward to a fresh start in Dallas, and hopes to get his offensive numbers clickign again. [Dallas News]
- Vernon Fiddler has been doing some good around Dallas lately, working with the Stars Foundation to spend time with children battling cancer. [Dallas Stars]
- The Kings bested the Red Wings last night, 2-1. There were a couple of crazy goals, including one that was Mighty-Duck-esque. See if you can spot it. (By the way, the Kings have now gone from last in the conference to 5th. Yikes) [NHL]
- Mike Milbury is not a fan of Alex Ovechkin, and he is not afraid to show it. In last night's game, he went on a "with great talent comes great accountability" rant against the (former?) superstar player. [Puck Daddy]
- Here's an interesting piece about what time of year players were born, and who benefits the most. It all comes down to the timing of drafts and age eligibility, and sometimes those 6 months of age on the calendar can make a huge difference. [Globe And Mail]
- Someone points out that it is rather difficult for the NHL to claim that it wants to eliminate all head injuries, but still allows and encourages players to punch each other in the face. [Globe And Mail]
- Being that this is a team from Texas, there are probably a number of hockey fans that are also fans of Nascar. But if you're not, Sean McIndoe gives you a list of what the two sports have in common. [Down Goes Brown]
- For your video of the day, here is the newest Star himself, talking about his transition to Dallas. It will be nice once he gets a game or two under his belt, and he can hurry up and get settled in.