Fresh off killing a six-game (losing) dragon, the Dallas Stars look to get back on a roll tonight against the visiting Boston Bruins, who enter off a loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night.
The Stars, despite the fortnight-long struggle to begin 2014, sit just six points back of Minnesota for the last playoff spot in the impossible Western Conference, and have three games in hand. But while tonight might be all business for the players and the coaching staffs, familiar faces will stare across the rink at one another as the league's biggest off-season trade gets examined once again.
Tonight marks the first of many returns to the American Airlines Center for the young Swede who was wrought by this organization in Loui Eriksson, newly returned from his second concussion of the season in a five week span.
"It definitely felt like a long time, so it was nice to get back out there," Eriksson told Boston media upon his return. "This one was more frustrating. I was a lot angrier about it because it happened again. It's just a bad feeling when you don't know how long you're going to be out for. It's much better to be healthy, and to be back.
The second place Bruins are all but assured a playoff spot, so the trade still looks like a good thing for "Loui", but the concussion issue looms large as each subsequent incident begets, statistically speaking, further ones more easily.
"It's any other game, is the way I am looking at it," Rich Peverley told media Wednesday. "I'm sure they are, too. We need the win as much as they do. We've got to play our best because we have to continue getting points."
Ray Whitney skated in his 1,300th NHL game Tuesday night but had an off-day while his mates practiced Wednesday. He's expected to be ready for Thursday's action and the lines from practice looked like this:
Kari Lehtonen is expected to start in net.
Boston, like Dallas recently, is enjoying a January full of inter-conference hockey.
It began with wins over Nashville and Winnipeg at home before losses in Anaheim (as it does for everyone...) and in Los Angeles before an impressive conclusion to their trip with a 1-0 shtutout of the San Jose Sharks.
Add all of that to a 4-3 loss at home on Tuesday to the rival Toronto Maple Leafs and they've dropped three of their last four and five of their last eight altogether.
Why? A few very un-Bruin-like goals against totals of 4, 0, 4, 5, 1, 2, 5, and 4- Plus just a single power play goal to show over that same stretch (1-for-23) while allowing 10 man-advantage tallies against.
Certainly special teams is where the Boston media is casting its gaze after the Bruins out-shot Toronto 41-26 Tuesday night but failed to convert on three power plays while the Leafs went 2-for-5.
"It's not the system," Gregory Campbell told media of their penalty kill. "The system that's in place has worked for years and it's been able to put us at the top of the league, so it's something collectively as a group we have to look at."
Boston is 4-3-0 against the Western Conference on the road this season.
Only one team has spent less time than the Bruins have on the power play on the road this season and only two teams have scored fewer road power play goals, perhaps forecasting a positive margin on special teams tonight.
Fox Sports Southwest proper tonight at 7:30pm CST. We'll see you back here for the gameday thread.