Update by Brandon Worley: Trevor Daley is out tonight and will have an MRI on his shoulder when the team returns to Dallas. Jeff Woywitka (yay!) will step in.
The Dallas Stars will bring a five game road swing to a close tonight in Atlanta before heading home for the holidays. They've scraped a 1-1-2 record so far on the trip, and can finish at .500 or better with a win or, hockey-gods forbid, their league leading 11th overtime loss.
Both teams traveled to Atlanta last night and will play back to back. The Thrashers trailed Florida 3-1 heading into the third period last night in Miami but battled back to tie the game. They ultimately loss on a Panther goal with less than two minutes to play. The Stars, as you know, played possibly their most disappointing hockey of the season in Carolina (minus the second period) and fell to the Hurricanes 5-3. Needless to say, both clubs will be looking to improve upon their Wednesday night outings as the puck drops at Philips Arena at 6:00pm CST.
This is the only meeting between these teams this season. Last year, Dallas shutout Atlanta 2-0 in January at American Airlines Center.
The Stars have won only three times in their last ten outings. Frustration in the locker room is mounting:
"We're having a hard time playing 60 minutes," said forward Mike Ribeiro, who had three assists. "Something has to change. Sometimes we get off to a good start and tonight it was the first (period in which we struggled). We have to be better."
After the jump, more reaction to last night's contest and a look at the Atlanta Thrashers...
"I think we knew they were going to come out hard," said defenseman Stephane Robidas, who once again led the team in ice time, logging 24:47. "They have a good team, they got a pretty good group of skilled forwards."
"Personally, I got caught on Jokinen, I know he’s pretty good at cutting behind the D, and that’s exactly what he did," Robidas said. "I was aware of it, I was just sleeping a little bit on that play."
"We need to work on our preparation and attention to details," Grossman said. "That’s how we get better. We got off to a slow start. We tried to push late but we couldn’t get over the hump."
They tried to push late but couldn't gain possession of the puck...
"I think we put ourselves in trouble early with the penalties and didn’t get the kill and when you do that you dig a hole," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "We dug ourselves too deep of a hole this time. We had some poor clears and some other mistakes on the PK and it cost us."
"We have no consistency," Morrow said. "We'd love to get a little streak going here. We still have six or seven games in December to turn it around."
Here is how I see this one. Marty Turco wasn't great, but he was clearly not the only problem. (By the way, Alex Auld will go Thursday against Atlanta, which lost to Florida on Wednesday night).
Jussi Jokinen came out like a house on fire, and not one player on the Stars was prepared to match that energy.
Dallas, which is one of the least penalized teams in the NHL, took three penalties in the first period. The Hurricanes, who came in with the 28th best power play, scored on two of them.
That was primarily hustle, mental toughness and momentum for Carolina.
Turco could have stopped the first shot, sure, but Stephane Robidas could have played Jokinen better at the blueline. He's seen Jokinen run that same play 100 times in practice, and probably should have known it was coming.
There were other breakdowns, as well.
Bottom line, it's always something new with this team. It's a late meltdown, it's a bad start. It's a bad night on faceoffs. It's a bad night with turnovers. It's a bad night in net.
As for tonight, we know that Alex Auld will be in goal. Trevor Daley left the game pretty early last night with an upper body/shoulder injury. There didn't seem to be concern from Marc Crawford that it would be a long term problem, but I would be surprised to see him out there tonight. We'll update this space with information as it becomes available.
If they are the mediocre team that we think they are, I expect them to get this game to overtime to secure 5 points on their 5 game trip. At the very least, I expect them to fare better than the Kings, who went to Atlanta and got beat 7-0.
Our friends at Bird Watchers Anonymous have been praising the efforts of yet another ex-Star (let's hope he doesn't perform like Jussi did last night): Johan Hedberg:
Heading into this season I was a firm advocate of trading Johan Hedberg and going with a one-two tandem of Lehtonen and Pavelec. Heck I was even in favor of keeping Legace over Hedberg. Now I have nothing against Hedberg as a person--by all accounts he is a terrrific human being. But for two seasons in a row Hedberg ranked near the very bottom of all NHL goaltenders in SV% (the best metric for goalies in my view).
Suddenly at age 36 Johan Hedberg is having the best season of his entire NHL career. He currently sits tied for 2nd overall in SV% (.920) and he sports a sparkling 2.24 GAA. The Moose appears to have found the Fountain of Youth! To be honest, such a renaissance at his age is very surprising--I can't explain it, but I'll gladly accept it. Even better it appears to me that he has a great relationship with rookie Ondrej Pavalec and appears to be helping the young goalie maintain an elite level in the world's toughest hockey league.
The Dallas Morning News says Kari Lehtonen is out with a back injury. It's not clear if Hedberg will start back to back games, or if they'll go with Ondrej Pavelec, highly anticipated rookie.
Atlanta is 7-6-2 on home ice this season.
As we said, Kari Lehtonen is out for Atlanta. For Dallas, Trevor Daley is questionable with an upper body injury suffered last night against the Hurricanes.