The Dallas Stars thought a four-game home stand might buoy them in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, but finished it 1-2-1 and now seek the haven of what is actually a better win percentage on the road (7-6-1) this season as they take on the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.
Dallas put out a fire Monday night when they (no pun intended, really) took down Calgary in regulation. Losses to Nashville, Anaheim and Chicago had the Stars pushing the outer boundaries of the Western Conference standings, and they hope now, with a win under the belts, to squeeze back into the top eight with just 20 games remaining.
"It was a big win," Glen Gulutzan said Monday night of the Calgary win. "We clawed our way a little bit to the surface here. We've still got a few feet to go. I thought our beginning was good, we didn't have the second we wanted and we stabilized a little bit in the third."
Of the Avs, meanwhile, it may be tempting and lazy to say they're struggling at home, having lost three straight at Pepsi Center, but they started 8-2-1 there this year, remaining quite dangerous in their home altitude. The onus is entirely on Dallas to control the flow of the game and not give the young Avalanche ample opportunity toward Lehtonen's net.
From Stars PR: "Stars netminder KARI LEHTONEN has posted an overall record of 7-2-1 in 12 career appearances against Colorado, including a 4-1-0 mark at Pepsi Center. LEHTONEN has allowed just nine goals against in Colorado and boasts a .949 save percentage, a 1.81 goals-against average and one shutout against the Avalanche away from home."
Puck drop tonight should be at about 8:37pm CDT on Fox Sports Southwest PLUS.
Dallas surprised many yesterday when they assigned backup goaltender Richard Bachman to the Texas Stars in favor of rookie Jack Campbell ahead of this week's back-to-back sets in Colorado and Los Angeles. Whether or not he'll play is still up in the air, but either way it can be a tremendous learning experience for the 2010 first-round pick.
"You realize how good the NHL goalies really are," Campbell told media Tuesday. "It's no knock on those guys when your goal is to be up here sooner than later, but until you see them playing and practicing every day then it's an eye-opener. You look at Kari and he does everything so well. I am just trying to learn from him. It's half mentally on my part and half seeing how good those guys are."
Joe Nieuwendyk told Mark Stepneski Tuesday that it was a win-win for Richard Bachman and Campbell both, as Bachman will get some needed game action and Jack gets a taste of NHL life and something to strive for in the mean time.
Will Campbell get into a game? Not in Colorado, if Tuesday's quotes were any indication. A decision about tomorrow night in Los Angeles has yet to be made, however.
Meanwhile, lines on Monday began as these, though quickly degenerated into chaos as the Fiddler line really took on more minutes than usual and things were shuffled due to illness spread throughout the lineup.
Aaron Rome's return is nearing, and soon, but not soon enough to make the trip. We'll guess he'll see at least one, if not both home games against the Wild next week, but it remains to be seen.
Ryan Garbutt is on IR now with we think could be a broken hand, though there's nothing official on it.
Colorado surprised the hockey world two weeks ago when they became the first team this season to finally defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in a 60 minute hockey game. They followed it up a 3-2 win over the Sharks and things were looking up for them.
Since, however, they've been positively leaky in surrendering four to Edmonton, five to Minnesota, six to Minnesota and five more to Chicago. It's a four-game regulation losing streak in which they've been out-scored 20-9 overall, three of which were on home ice.
Which isn't to say they can't score. They've generally been dangerous at Pepsi Center, scoring 27 goals in their last 8 home games (3.375 per), which is a pace the Stars would love to have at the AAC lately.
In the last eight games since Ryan O'Reilly has come back into their lineup they've seen their shots per game go to 31.25. The shots against in the same span, however: 33.5. So if you like a lot of action, which we don't think the Stars' coaching staff does, this might be an exciting contest.
Lines for the Avalanche on Monday night were these, according to Mile High Hockey...
The Colorado home stand sounds not entirely unlike the one Dallas just wrapped up. From the Denver Post...
Avs captain Gabe Landeskog, who scored a short-handed goal to trim Chicago's 2-0 lead in half, said: "Times are tough right now. It's been a frustrating week. The guys in here are the ones that dug ourselves in this hole and we're the ones that will find our way out. No doubt it's tough."
For the second consecutive game, the NHL Western Conference last-place Avs hung goalie Semyon Varlamov out to dry before some fans settled into their seats. Errors by Avs defensemen Jan Hejda and Erik Johnson led to the Blackhawks' first two goals within the first 4:44 of the game, and Chicago ultimately built a 4-1 lead.