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Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ Phoenix Coyotes (8:05p EST)

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Dallas Stars (11-6-7, 7th in West)
@ Phoenix Coyotes (13-11-1, 9th in West)

Friday, Nov 27, 2009, 8:05 PM CST Arena

Radio: KTCK 1310 The Ticket

Opponent's Blog: Five For Howling

Complete Coverage >

Hopefully everyone had a safe and fun holiday yesterday, but now it's back to business. The Dallas Stars will attempt to fight off their tryptophan coma tonight as they take on the Phoenix Coyotes tonight in Glendale, Arizona.

The Stars are coming off of a four-game homestand, their first of the season, and went 2-1-1 in those games. Dallas was finally able to get into a pseudo-rhythm on home ice after an up and down start to the season. While you'd certainly hope for a better finish than the shootout loss to the Blues, at least you can be thankful the Stars did enough to pull a point out of the game. Every single game is incredibly important this early in the season, as just eight points separate 2nd in the West and 11th. The Stars gained a point on Wednesday, but have dropped two spots to 7th.

More importantly, the Stars have a chance to gain some ground in the race for the division title. While it seemed early on that San Jose will just run away with the Pacific, a win tonight will put the Stars five points back with a game in hand; it's still extremely early to be focusing on a division win but with such a surprisingly competitive division every point becomes important.

But that's big picture. Right now the Stars just need to focus on each game, one at a time. We've seen the team start to form some consistency over the past week and despite the loss two nights ago, you still had to be encouraged by the energy the Stars showed throughout (and yes, that is an important factor).

After the jump, a look at the Coyotes since we last saw them and some updates on the Dallas Stars; it's a Super Preview!!

The Dallas Stars:

After being recalled for just one game in case Karlis Skrastins couldn't play against the Blues, defenseman Maxime Fortunus was sent back to the Texas Stars. If the Stars have any more injury issues on defense, I'm hoping that Fortunus gets another chance to make his NHL debut. He is an extremely intelligent and solid defenseman and is a key part of the reason that Texas has done so well this season. He's an AHL veteran and was great in last season's playoffs and I think that if given a shot he could make a good impression in the NHL.

Fabian Brunnstrom made his debut Wednesday with Texas in his first game since his shoulder injury, going pointless and minus-1 in the 2-1 Stars shootout victory over Milwaukee (Warren Peters and Ivan Vishnevskiy scored in the shootout for the win). With him down in Austin and Brian Sutherby still on injured reserve (although he could come off today, I believe), expect to see the same lines as Wednesday night:

Neal - Richards - Eriksson
Ott - Ribeiro - Lehtinen
Morrow - Modano - Benn
Petersen - Wandell - Barch

We'll find out later today if Nicklas Grossman can play. If not, we'll get another great dose of Jeff Woywitka.

After the loss to the Blues, Marc Crawford mentioned that the lack of execution and defensive breakdowns was attributed to fatigue after playing four games in six nights. Hopefully they got some rest over the short holiday because the travel to Phoenix tonight, go back home to take on Tampa Bay tomorrow night and then travel once more to Detroit on Monday. Expect this for the rest of the season; fatigue is going to be an issue for every team and it's an excuse I'm tired of hearing.

No word as of yet as to who the starter will be tonight, although I would go with a rested Alex Auld against the Coyotes and play Turco tomorrow night against Tampa Bay. Marc Crawford is wily, however, and there's telling what their 'plan' may be for this weekend. His last hunch worked out however when he started Auld against the Red Wings, so I'll defer to him.

Here are some news and notes on the Stars from the last few days:

Andrew's Dallas Stars Page has a look at some special teams stats:

Statistically speaking, you can look at the Dallas Stars' special teams in more than one way. In the standard statistical view the power play is middle of the pack and the penalty kill is the in the bottom of third of the league. In another way of looking at the numbers, the power play is top ten and the penalty kill is middle of the pack.

Take the power play, for example. Through Wednesday's games it ranked 17th in the league at 17.4 percent in the usual way of looking at power play performance stats. Look at it a different way - power play goals per game - and it ranked seventh in the league at 0.92 per game.

The penalty kill ranked 23rd in the league at 77.9 percent through Wednesday, but if you look at power play goals allowed per game it was at 16th in the league at 0.79 per game.

The Dallas Morning News has a good story on Brad Richards, who is 4th in the NHL in overall scoring.

There are several reasons for the surge. Richards has found chemistry with young wingers James Neal and Loui Eriksson; he has taken over as the quarterback of the power play (a role Sergei Zubov held for better than a decade); and he simply is better than he has been in recent seasons.

Richards said he was disappointed with last season's injury-plagued campaign, and the Stars' inability to make the playoffs. He went to his summer home in Tampa, Fla. and worked out relentlessly, concentrating on leg work and skating, but also on finding the hunger in his game again.

"It obviously helped physically, but I think it helped mentally, too," he said.

Andrew's also has the audio from Brendan Morrow's appearance on BaD radio from Wednesday. What I found interesting was what he had to say about his fight with Tim Gleason.

The Phoenix Coyotes:

Since beating the Stars at home on November 14, the Coyotes have gone 2-3-1 and slid further down in the standings, including two straight losses on the road against Calgary and Edmonton. Five For Howling has an excellent preview up for the game, so I'm going to defer to them for the Coyotes point of view:

Attack the Goalie
Whether we get a big helping of Thanksgiving Turco or more of the same Auld Lang Syne, we need to make sure that the Stars' netminder earns his pay. Marty Turco in particular has proven to be less than bulletproof at Arena - he likes to play Superman, but the Coyotes in general and Shane Doan in particular seem to know where to find Kryptonite. The key against Turco is to have enough patience with the puck until he overcommits. Against Auld, who plays a less "flamboyant" style, the Coyotes simply have to dodge the "show up your old team" ethic that nipped them against Calgary. Tall Bald Auld is less aggressive in the crease than Turco, but he's also more porous - and as long as the refs and video review guys are paying attention the Coyotes can slip a few past him.

Clog the Slot and Crease
By now, we've all realized that there aren't any spectacularly-gifted offensive talents on the Coyotes' squad. And if we hadn't on Wednesday, TSN did a great job of reminding us about it. Over. And over. And over again. So since we apparently lack the creativity and precision it takes to snipe goals in from afar on a consistent basis, it would behoove the Desert Dogs to increase the close-in pressure between the circles and in front of the net. The Coyotes signed Taylor Pyatt for his big body and ability to create chances at the crease - his slow skating speed has looked out of place among the other faster forwards in the lineup when the team has dumped-and-chased. Parking guys like Pyatt, Paul Bissonnette, and Martin Hanzal in front of the goalie might smack of hunting for garbage goals... but let's be honest, right now any goal is a good goal for the offensively-challenged Coyotes.

There is much, much more so be sure to check it out.

Key Injuries:

Dallas: D Nicklas Grossman (groin) is questionable. C Brian Sutherby (groin) and RW Fabian Brunnstrom (shoulder) are out.

Phoenix: D Kurt Sauer (upper body) is out.