The Philadelphia Flyers could teach a thing or two to the Dallas Stars. In November and the first half of December, the Flyers went through a 14 game stretch with only 2 wins and dropped their record to 15-18-02. Since then, they're 7-1-1 in their last nine games and have collected 15 of an available 18 points (.833). That is exactly the kind of run the Dallas Stars desperately need to claw themselves back into the (much tougher) Western Conference playoff race, and it needs to start tonight.
The horrific road struggles for this team have reached an epic 11 games with only 1 win. The overtime loss points that so many lamented early in the season are at this point a distant, but fond memory of the way things used to be in October and November. Even in defeat the team was inching their way forward, hanging around and "in the mix." The mix is quickly passing them by now. Minnesota pulled even with Dallas last night after a big win against the Penguins, and the Blue Jackets and Ducks are on pace to overtake the Stars before the week is over. Things are getting ugly, there's just no other way to say it.
Job #1 will be to keep the Flyers from unloading on Marty Turco. Philadelphia has been on a tear offensively, scoring over 4 goals a game in their recent run of good fortune. Their last two home games were 6-2 and 4-1 victories over the Maple Leafs and the Lightning. The Stars have failed to score a goal in two of their last 3 games away from the American Airlines Center.
Follow the jump for more on both teams and an injury report...
Since the calendar turned to 2010, the Stars have scored 7 goals in 5 games. 4 of those came against the New York Islanders.
The loss of Mike Ribeiro is starting to rear it's ugly head. The team was unable to take advantage of several early power plays afforded to them by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night, and Tom Wandell was once again unable to lead the Morrow/Benn line to a goal.
The team practiced today at Penn Ice Rink at the University of Pennsylvania, and on the way over, Marc Crawford stopped the bus at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and had the players run up the stairs the way Rocky did in the Rocky movies. One of the players put the "Gonna Fly Now'' soundtrack on his phone so all could hear, and good times were had by all.
After that, practice was spirited and had a lot of pace, so we'll see if that pays off. Lots of drive to the net, screening of shots and searching for rebounds. You'd expect it after getting shut out.
Anyway, lines were this:
Warren Peters played on the fourth D pair with Jeff Woywitka.
My guess is Marty Turco is in net tomorrow.
As usual, the Stars opponent carries with them into the game statistical edges in PP%, PK%, Faceoff %, SA/G, Goals per game and Goals against per game.
Their 7-1-1 run has come at the hands (or pads) of goaltender Michael Leighton, who the Flyers plucked off waivers. Philly.com explains:
In his last nine starts for the Flyers, Leighton has already topped his career high for wins (six) in an NHL season. His 7-0-1 record has carried the Flyers on a 7-1-1 stretch - a perfect antidote for a 3-13-1 in November and December - to give the Flyers their best nine-game roll of the season.
Undoubtedly, Leighton has received a lot of help from the guys skating in front of him - he said so himself after Saturday night's 4-1 win over Tampa Bay, in which the Flyers held the Lightning to just 12 shots on goal through the first two periods.
"I can't say enough about the team in front of me," Leighton said. "We played good defense again. Our penalty kill was great. The shots did come [from] the outside, and guys were blocking shots too."
And the scoring cushion has been there.
The Flyers have scored 38 goals in the last nine games, something they couldn't do in Brian Boucher's solid starts in place of the injured Ray Emery.
The Flyers' power play, which has climbed back up to third in the NHL with a 9-for-27 conversion rate (37 percent), and penalty kill, which has killed off 30 of the last 32 power plays (93.7 percent), are clicking on all cylinders.
With Emery and Boucher healthy now, the Flyers have a plethora of options in goal. (Which is sure to displease the groups of Stars fans who thought they might want to trade for Marty Turco.)
Flyers: Ryan Parent (back), and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (concussion) are out.
Stars: Mike Ribeiro (throat contusion) and Nick Grossman (knee) are both out.