The Dallas Stars head to Denver on Monday to face the Colorado Avalanche in the first nationally televised game of the season for team, coming just two days after one of the more anemic offensive efforts we've seen from this franchise in quite some time. The Phoenix Coyotes squeezed the life out of the Stars attack on Saturday night in a 2-0 shutout and the Stars have scant time to figure out how to start putting the puck in net.
The Stars are scoring just 1.78 goals per game (No. 29 in the NHL) yet celebrate the return of center Derek Roy, who has missed five games with a nagging groin injury. Roy was the best faceoff center for the Stars through the first four games and logged nearly 20 mins of ice time per game before his injury, and Glen Gulutzan is excited about having one of his top two centers back on the ice.
"I like his speed, his ability to possess the puck, his ability to kill penalties and his ability to take faceoffs," Gulutzan said on Sunday. "Just the ability to have a centerman who is over 50 percent on faceoffs, that's a great place to start."
The question that everyone is asking, however, is just what the lines will look like with Roy returning and Cody Eakin playing so well in his absence. Mike Heika notes from practice on Sunday that the line combinations are as of yet undecided, but dispels any thoughts of a major shakeup:
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said the team has not decided on lines, and they did not run lines during practtice. They did mostly drills. However, he said he has not thought about moving Jamie Benn to the wing and keeping Cody Eakin in the top six forward group after Eakin performed well at center.
"We haven't decided on the lines, but Eakin, Benn and Roy will all play center," Gulutzan said. "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 centerman who is over 50 percent on faceoffs, that's a great place to start."
The Stars did not roll with any specific lines on Sunday in practice, choosing instead to focus on drills. Gulutzan also stated that a bag skate is coming, only a time when the Stars won't be playing three games in four days and traveling to Mile High to finish off the stretch.
We'll certainly have an update on lines coming out of morning skate today, but it certainly seems as if Eakin will be centering a youthful energy line with Reilly Smith and Ryan Garbutt -- the question is just how much ice time they'll receiver.
Coming up in links today, Glen Gulutzan talks penalties and another wildly controversial call by the officials:
- "We have looked at the film, and we have counted all of the chances, and we are a good team at even strength. But we cannot have a difference in power plays of 11:40 to 40 seconds. That just changes so many things. On one side, our PK was actually really good, but they can't just go out there time and time and time again. At some point, you're going to break down. On the other side, you just can't anything going on the power play in 40 seconds, you can't. Then, when you start realizing that you can't even get your offense going, because you can't get those players on the ice, it's really frustrating." -- Glen Gulutzan, on the penalty issues this season.
- Mark Stepneski notes in his game preview that the Avalanche are 3-0-0 at home, coming off a big 3-1 win over Edmonton. [Stars Inside Edge]
- Mike Heika also notes that the return of Derek Roy should add some more defensive balance to the Stars and hopefully free up Jamie Benn, who has been forced to play against top competition in Roy's absence. [Dallas Morning News]
- The Colorado Avalanche are dealing with some major injuries of their own with Ryan Wilson, Gabriel Landeskog and David Jones out tonight and with Steve Downie gone for the season with a torn ACL. Just seven players skated on Sunday for the Avs in a optional practice for the team. [Denver Post]
- The Mile High Hockey preview of tonight's game notes that the Avs have struggled to put the puck in the net as well, meaning that tonight's game will almost assuredly mean another 7-6 between the two teams. [MHH]
- Pro Hockey Talk takes a look at tonight's matchup on NBC Sports Network, noting that the Avalanche haven't just lost a good number of players to injury but that the quality of those players lost is most important. [PHT]
- There's this crazy thing in hockey that sits near the goal, called the crease. This little area of blue paint is meant to delineate the area in which the goaltender is allowed free movement; if the goalie leaves that blue painted area, then goalie interference doesn't exactly exist -- especially on a slight bump. Of course, just tell that to Jakob Silfverberg of the Ottawa Senators. [Puck Daddy]
- Tomas Vanek is playing at an unconscious level right now and leads the NHL with 19 points, and factored into all three goals for the Sabres against the Panthers on Sunday. Buffalo still lost, however, falling to 3-5-1 on the season. [PHT]
- Finally, we bring you one of the more freak goals I've seen in quite some time. The Washington Capitals fell to pieces in the second period against Pittsburgh despite getting a game-tying boost from the side boards; home-ice advantage, indeed.