Note:The last time these two teams met there was some emotional debating between DBD readers and those from St. Louis Game Time, mostly stemming from the Steve Ott hit and suspension. Expect there to be a high level of vitriol directed towards Ott and the Stars tonight as well. If you are inclined to travel over to SLGT, be warned that you are on their territory and they play by a different set of rules; represent DBD with intelligence and respect, no matter what you might read on their site. Remember, that is their home and they are free to present whatever feelings they desire. The same goes for visiting Blues fans; anyone is welcome here at Defending Big D, but you must follow OUR community guidelines. I will not tolerate anything less. End Note.
Don't look now, but the Dallas Stars are on a bit of a roll. They are 4-2-0 in their last six and have now beaten Detroit, San Jose and New Jersey are in the past few weeks. There is a lot to like about this team and it's been refreshing to finally see the Stars begin to realize the potential we knew they had going into the season. Marty Turco is top ten in the NHL in both goals-against average (2.26) and save percentage (.919), and had been perhaps the only reason the Stars have been able to survive their inconsistent performances of the past month.
It's way too early in the season for any substantial predictions, but Brad Richards has to be mentioned as a player deserving MVP consideration. He is sixth in the NHL in overall scoring (28 points) and fourth in assists (21), and is on pace to get nearly 100 points this season. At one point early in the year Brad, Brandon, Art and I had a mini debate planned about the most important and indispensable players on the Stars. At this point, there's no question that Brad Richards is integral to this team's success. He has become the player we traded for in 2008, is an unquestioned leader on this team and is downright spectacular on a nightly basis. He's not flashy but as Brad says, "He has a part in nearly every single Dallas Stars goal." If this continues, Richards could have one of the most remarkable seasons in Dallas Stars history.
Also, please remember that the game tonight is on VERSUS. Razor will be on the television broadcast, while friend of Defending Big D Brent Severyn will join Ralph on the radio broadcast on The Ticket.
After the jump, a look at the visiting Blues and we try to determine just what the lines will look like now that James Neal has returned.
The Dallas Stars:
There was a lot of questioning how the Stars would respond offensively with James Neal out of the lineup, but his suspension may have been a blessing in disguise. The absence of Neal forced Marc Crawford to shake the lines up a bit and as it turned out the Stars have found perhaps their most balanced lineup of the season. The question now becomes how will the lines shake out now that Neal has returned and since so many players were off for yesterday's practice, we don't have much of a idea at this point. Expect a better picture after today's skate.
In the meantime, here are my guesses:
Neal - Richards - Eriksson
Ott - Ribeiro - Lehtinen
Morrow - Modano - Benn
Barch - Wandell - Petersen
Also, remember that the Stars have done a bit of shuffling on the roster to make room for injuries to Nicklas Grossman and Karlis Skrastins:
Fabian Brunnstrom to AHL (conditioning)
Warren Peters to AHL
Brian Sutherby to IR
Maxime Fortunus recalled to NHL
If Skrastins is unable to play tonight then Fortunus will be a solid fill in for one night, although the Stars will certainly miss his shot-blocking and penalty killing prowess. Skrastins hasn't been flashy, but if he's out for any length of time Stars fans will certainly realize just how important he's been to this Dallas Stars team.
Andrew's Stars Page has some quotes from Neal on his return:
"You can't slow up your game because you're worried about stuff like that. You've got to keep playing," said Neal. "I've done it my whole life. Never in my life have I got suspended from a game for a hit like that. I didn't mean to hit him from behind."
"There was no malicious intent there. He was just a little reckless. He's served his time and you move on," said Crawford. "He's got to continue to play hard and he will."
The St. Louis Blues:
The Blues find themselves in similar position as last season; struggling early and low in the standings. They pulled out a miracle run in the second half of the season to get into the playoffs and will be looking to do so again. So far this season they've struggled mightily to score and have the worst power play in the NHL.
Hildymac from SLGT has these thoughts:
Frankly, I really need to figure out a way to pick a topic that I can do point-counterpoint on better, because this one I'm totally biased in one way, and that is 110% against the dump and chase. That is the system of desperation. You use that system, and the opposing team smells blood in the water, regardless of if they're the Sharks or not. You get the puck, you're not sure what to do, so you dump it all the way down the ice, hoping you get there before the other team. Yeah, that's useful... if you're on a LINE CHANGE. If your team isn't built for speed, and aside from Perron and Kariya, we're really not, you're not going to get there first. Sorry. What this system tells the other team is that you don't have the patience to let players get into position, or you don't have any idea what to do once they do manage to get something established. This is the system of bottom-feeding teams who have coaches that are just trying to get guys to do something, anything, resembling playing hockey. This is not us. Allow me to repeat that for anyone who thinks that this works for teams: no.
Obviously, keep an eye on how the Blues respond to Steve Ott. He was suspended for his hit on Colaiacovo, but I'm sure the team is still pissed for his run at B.J. Crombeen as well. If the Stars go up by a few, this could turn into an ugly game. I'm hopeful it won't and generally, when you expect a bunch of fireworks from either side, you end up with a team and normal game.