It may seem like a long time ago to some, but the Carolina Hurricanes were in the Conference Finals last year against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Carolina had a surprisingly deep playoff run, starting from the #6 seed. They hurdled the New Jersey Devils and the top seeded Boston Bruins before running out of gas against the eventual Stanley Cup Champs. So what happened between now and then?
The USA Today wrote on Monday that the Hurricanes are "firmly entrenched as the NHL's worst team"
They need scoring punch. They need stronger defensive play. They need to stay healthy. They need to find a way to put the puck in the net when they have the man advantage.
And, most importantly, they need answers.
"For some reason, things kind of snowballed early in the year on us and put us in a tough spot, but I don't have an answer," Cullen said. "I don't think anybody in (the dressing room) has an answer."
If this story sounds familiar, it's because the Stars lived it one year ago. After advancing all the way to the Conference Finals against Detroit, the Stars found themselves in the same miserable, injury riddled situation last season.
Carolina is 2-2-1 in their last five games, however, and start a stretch of five of their next seven at home tonight against the Stars, where they've been waiting since finishing a road trip of their own on Saturday night. Dallas, meanwhile, had their five game road trip broken up by a couple of days in Dallas on the way from the west coast to the east. These teams should both be well rested and highly motivated tonight.
Don't forget, Defending Big D Live is on tonight immediately following the game with our first ever post game show!
After the jump, a look at tonight's matchup and an injury update...
The Dallas Stars:
The Stars will meet up with our old friend Jussi Jokinen tonight, and Marc Crawford, according to the Morning News, has taken the opportunity to use our ex-Fin as a poster boy for shootout-competency:
"There's enough footage now with goaltenders. Jokinen did that. He read the goalies really well. They were telling me he went so far he worked with the Zamboni guy and wanted that ice shaved a little more on the one side. That's detail. He got results. There's something to it."
Jokinen is 4-for-6 this season and is tied for the NHL leads in shootout goals scored.The Stars are 6-for-39 in shooting and are 2-7 as a team in shootouts.
Crawford also said he would like to see players like Mike Ribeiro return to his trick shots...if that's what it takes to score.
``At the end of day, it just matters if you score,'' Crawford said. ``I think it is a time for those skill players to really show their flamboyance. I have no problem with that. You certainly don't want to rub it in after you score, but it takes an awful lot of skill to be these goalies, because the goalies are so good.''
While I'm sure we're all highly anticipating Mike Ribeiro's next YouTube-fodder shootout attempt, we'd rather see the Stars score 3 or 4 goals and skip the skills competition for a nice change tonight.
Tonight marks the fourth game of a five game trip. The Stars have collected 4 of the 6 points available to them to this point, but gave away 5 in the process to Western Conference rivals. They finish the trip with a tough back-to-back tomorrow night in Atlanta.
The Carolina Hurricanes:
First of all, if you haven't checked out Canes Country by now, you're missing out. They do a fantastic job over there and they deserve better than 20 points in 31 games.
Jussi Jokinen praised the coaching staff and management. "I think everything starts at the top. All the stuff that Jim Rutherford has done and the staff he has hired. It's very well run and professional. The whole organization treats you with respect."
He elaborated more about the coaching staff. "The big thing for me personally is that they try to find something positive after every game. I think that's huge, to build a positive atmosphere, and that makes it easier to have success. It's a long season and you're going to have some bad games as a team and as an individual, but still if you can try to find the positive things that you can build on, and maybe do a little bit better, that helps to build your confidence. And that for me I think is the biggest thing."
Carolina trailed only 1-0 into the third period when these teams met in Dallas last month. They surrendered only 2 PP goals to the Stars, but couldn't get one by Marty Turco, who recorded his second shutout of the season. If the two play another close game tonight, Marty will need to be on his game.
If their web site is to be believed, this game will not be televised to 'Canes fans. Yuck.
Dallas: Mark Fistric, who missed the last game with a stomach "parasite" will be back in. The Stars remain miraculously healthy. (Knock on wood)
Carolina: Erik Cole (upper body), Joe Corvo (lower body), Chad LaRose (lower body) and Michael Ryan (concussion) are out. Niclas Wallin (upper body) is questionable.