After four days off following a mistake ridden loss in Minnesota, 3-2 to the Wild, the Stars try to get back in the win column tonight against the best the NHL currently has to offer: The San Jose Sharks. Dallas has played well on the road so far this season, recording a 4-2-3 record, but the Sharks boast the NHL's best home mark at 6-0-1. The Stars must play a mistake free game if they're to hand the Sharks their first home-regulation loss of the year. San Jose has won ten of twelve, and enter the game edging Dallas in as many statistical categories as you can think of.
Dallas dropped five of six to the Sharks last year, who took no prisoners in the regular season. The Stars managed one victory in San Jose, a 4-1 win on March 3rd. They nearly pulled points out of the HP Pavillion twice last year, but a Marty Turco give away with only 29 seconds left cost the team at least a point one year ago in November. Mike Modano says seemingly every time they go to San Jose that they enjoy playing there. Let's hope they give the fans a reason to enjoy watching them there, as this one looks to be a challenge of the highest difficulty.
[UPDATE] Jere Lehtinen is out for tonight's game.
After the jump, injuries and more notes on tonight's game...
The Dallas Stars:
The Stars have scored only two goals in four straight games. They are 3-for-19 on the power play in that stretch, two of those coming in the loss to Minnesota. The Stars will look to the return of James Neal to the lineup tonight to get that Neal-Richards-Erikssson trio jump started, but they'll likely attract the majority of the Sharks defensive attention.
What the Stars really need is for the Ribeiro/Morrow combination to return to form. The two have combined for only three points in their last four games, and have endured well documented defensive struggles in the process. The return of Jere Lehtinen helped stifle their growing pile of minuses in recent games, and Marc Crawford will reunite the pair with Jamie Benn for tonight's game, opting to play Jere Lehtinen with Mike Modano and Toby Petersen.
Meanwhile, Brian Sutherby will apparently sit tonight in favor of Krys Barch, who returned from a shoulder injury and will see fourth line minutes with Tom Wandell and Steve Ott. This is surprising to some, as the Sutherby/Wandell/Brunnstrom combination had begun to show a nice chemistry in recent games, but Fabian Brunnstrom's absence (shoulder) may have prompted a change. The presence of Steve Ott and Krys Barch on the same line could make for some interesting results.
UPDATE: Jere Lehtinen is out for tonight's game, apparently. Brian Sutherby will be in. Your guess is as good as mine on what the line's will be.
Marty Turco is in net tonight.
As for the Sharks, you'll see a lot of this in scouting the enemy tomorrow, but just so you know, they are the hottest team in hockey with an 8-0-1 run going. They are first in points percentage at .737, first in goal-differential at +1.06, and first in face-off winning percentage at 56.9%. They are second in goals against average (2.22), second in save percentage (.923), second in power play success (25.0%), fourth in goal scoring (3.32) and fourth in penalty kill (85.5%).
So you could say this is a bit of a challenge for the Stars.
I don't know what else to say. The Sharks are just really good (in the regular season) and it will take, as Razor says, a Herculean effort tonight by Dallas to take them down.
After being stripped of the captaincy, and a tumultuous summer, Patrick Marleau is tied for second in scoring in the NHL, and Battle of California is talking about re-signing him. He is enjoying a fantastic year so far with Clowe and Pavelski on his wings. With Setoguchi recently returned to the lineup, paired with Thornton and Heatley, the Sharks are a formidable group up front.
Dallas: Fabian Brunnstrom is out with a shoulder injury. Day-to-day.
San Jose: Rob Blake (upper body) and Torey Mitchell (leg) are out tonight.