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

Doug Pensinger

Ray Whitney comes out, Cody Eakin moves down, Derek Roy moves - The shuffle in the Stars' top two lines continues tonight in Denver.

A night after the Dallas Stars talked about establishing a foundation of belief following a losing-streak-snapping shootout win at home against the Coyotes, they went to Phoenix for a rematch and were shut completely down in a 2-0 win for Dave Tippett's bunch.

The Coyotes dominated play, out-shooting the Stars 34-17 in the contest, dropping the Stars' total goal total on the road, in five tries, to just four.

Glen Gulutzan knows that for a team playing 10 of their first 15 on the road this season, less than a goal-per-game away from the AAC is simply not going to cut it.

"I don't think we threw enough pucks randomly at the net and get bodies there," Gulutzan said Saturday night. "We get a little too cute. It wasn't until later until we started to do that. When you're on your heels a quarter of the game, that's what happens, no momentum."

The Stars afforded the Coyotes 11:41 on the man advantage Saturday to just 40 seconds of power-play time for Dallas. The Avalanche offer no easy corrections tonight as they're undefeated at home, out-scoring the opposition 10-2 in the three games.

The puck drops tonight, this time in front of a national television audience in both countries, at 8:00pm CST on NBC Sports Network (and TSN).

The Stars:

We mused on Saturday that a healthy Derek Roy, combined with an undeniably worthy performance from Cody Eakin thus far in the top-six could potentially mean that Benn, Roy and Eakin all remain on the top two lines, in whatever configuration, but Glen Gultuzan told Mike Heika yesterday in Denver that those three players will all play center.

Does that mean that Eakin and his team lead in assists gets relegated to fourth line minutes behind Vernon Fiddler on the third trio? The team did not run lines in practice on Sunday, so information is scarce.

"We haven't decided on the lines, but Eakin, Benn and Roy will all play center," Gulutzan told the Dallas Morning News. "I like having Derek back. I like his speed, his ability to possess the puck, his ability to kill penalties, and his ability to take faceoffs. Just the ability to have a center-man who is over 50 percent on faceoffs, that's a great place to start."

The guess, and it is only a guess at this point, is that things could shake out like this...

Eriksson-Roy-Jagr
Morrow-Benn-Ryder
Nystrom-Fiddler-Vincour
Garbutt-Eakin-Smith

Or might the Morrow-Benn-Jagr line stick, because they did in fact generate a few chances against the Coyotes in a largely chance-less game, and Roy could center Eriksson and Ryder? Again, we just don't know at this point.

The only thing that is certain is that chemistry is an ever-evolving thing for Gulutzan's bunch, who have seen combinations shift wildly through nine games and into this tenth.

The defense over the weekend took on a different look with Aaron Rome entering the lineup and Philip Larsena and Jordie Benn sitting. The indications appears to be that Jamie Oleksiak is here to stay, but that changes with the wind, it seems. The Stars will have to send a player back to Texas to make room for Derek Roy's activation, and that could be Oleksiak, Benn, Vincour, Roussel or Reilly Smith at this point.

The D against the Coyotes Saturday night was:

Robidas-Dillon
Goligoski-Oleksiak
Rome-Daley

Kari Lehtonen will start in net. Richard Bachman will back up with Cristopher Nilstorp still day-to-day.

The Avalanche:

Colorado is chugging along at a true .500 pace with a 4-4-0 record, several games better than Dallas. They're coming off a 3-1 win over a pretty good Edmonton Oiler team Saturday afternoon and have a few more hours rest on their legs than the Stars do.

Though the Stars resolved their differences with Jamie Benn and P.K. Subban succumbed in Montreal, The Avalanche remain without RFA Ryan O'Reilly, and Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports that "with talks between O'Reilly's representatives at the Ontario-based Newport Sports Agency and the Avs at a standstill, odds are growing shorter with every passing day that will happen."

So don't look for that to get done any time soon.

Even without him the Avs are riding a two-game win streak, having impressively out-scored two division opponents 9-3 in that stretch. Unlike the Stars they've been disciplined in recent games, surrendering just three power-play opportunities against in their last two, and killing off all six. In contrast Dallas is allowing opponents an average of 5.5 power-plays per game in their last six outings.

Like the Detroit Red Wings last week, who were looking to get healthy on the power play as Dallas came to visit, the Avs are just 2 of 27 on the season, and the Stars could give them ample opportunity to improve.

Watch out for Matt Duchene tonight, who leads the team with 9 points through 8 games. He's scored 12 in 11 career games against Dallas, and is averaging two points-per-game at home this year. And of course, notorious Star-killer Milan Hejduk, who is looking for his first goal of the year...

Potential Avalanche lineup:

McGinn-Duchene-Parenteau
Mitchell-Stastny-Hejduk
Kobasew-Sgarbossa-Van Der Gulik
McLeod-Olver-Bordeleau

Johnson-Wilson
O-Byrne-Hejda
Zanon-Hunwick

Varlamov
Giguere

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