After two straight games against teams they're jostling with in the Western Conference standings, the Dallas Stars take on a team that is struggling to climb out of the basement. While it's nice to play a team that is not neck and neck with the Stars, it's not a given that they will automatically dominate. Last week the Stars went 1-1-1 against three poor teams, in games that they should have easily dominated. This will be another test of the Stars' resolve and focus, as they hope to not play down to the opposition and instead continue the domination we've seen against Calgary (albeit in a loss) and Vancouver.
One thing to watch out for is that while Minnesota has had a poor start to their season, they've been much better at home than on the road. Whenever the Stars make an appearance in Minnesota, the fans always have some extra incentive to get rowdy with Dallas in the building.\
After the jump, a surprise regarding starting goaltenders.
The Dallas Stars:
Expect the exact same lines and personnel as last night, as James Neal is out again with a sore groin and Krys Barch apparently unavailable with bad back.
The big surprise comes with news that Alex Auld will get the start tonight in net, after Marc Crawford hinted all week that Turco would most likely play in the back to back games. Crawford has maintained that there was a plan regarding the goaltenders and that they will stick with that plan throughout the season.
While Auld has been decent for the Stars, what's been frustrating is how the Stars have struggled to adjust game to game between Turco and his backup. The two have very different approaches and styles, but the biggest difference comes in how the defense approaches play in their own zone with Auld in net. We've seen the defense become extremely inconsistent around their own net in front of Auld, allowing several extra chances off rebounds as well as an overall inability to move the puck cleanly in transition.
One thing this team desperately needed after last season was a backup that could provide Marty Turco the rest he needs throughout the season. That's what Alex Auld was brought in for and he's going get 20-30 starts this season.
Yet with Dallas gaining momentum the past few games and with Marty Turco really starting to find a groove, you have to wonder if a change in net will disrupt the chemistry that's been building. Turco and his defense have finally started to get used to this new transition game that Crawford and Charlie Huddy have been preaching, and the Stars have not had that same success with Auld.
That's not to say I don't have confidence in Auld. Save for one extremely shaky start at home, Auld has looked solid in all of his appearance thus far.
I just don't see the advantage of changing things now, especially since the Stars have four days off after tonight's game.
The Minnesota Wild:
Like the Dallas Stars, the Wild changed their general manager and head coach this summer in an effort to go from conservative hockey to a more uptempo approach. Unlike the Stars, the Wild don't exactly have the young talent available to take advantage of the new system.
The Wild are scoring just 2.18 goals per game (28th in the NHL) and have struggled to maintain offensive pressure and consistency. The slow start, along with poor play from a number of their top players, have led to some mounting frustrations in the locker room.
In an interesting approach, Wild beat writer Michael Russo calls out Brent Burns for his refusal to man up in front of the local media:
That clip of Burns refusing to answer questions in full sentences and mumbling under his breath is what we get all the time after games -- when he's willing to come out and talk to us.
And I'm pretty sure Burns has been treated a little better in his tenure than James Sheppard has, yet Sheppard is constantly available, constantly willing to talk even though he knows what critical stories are being written on him.
The media exists not to be a nuisance. These are very well-paid professional athletes, and we are the liaison between the team and the fans. Part of a player's job is to be accountable to the fans who root them on, who pay their salaries!
That's Brent Burns' job. But he clearly doesn't think of it that way.
Here are the lines from Thursday's 5-2 loss against Vancouver.