After winning their first four games of the season the Dallas Stars have lost four of five, including three in a row at the American Airlines Center to open a six game home stand where the team had hoped to put even more points in the bank after a 5-1-0 start. Instead they find themselves at 5-4-0 and in desperate need of stopping the bleeding.
They will try to do so against a Buffalo Sabre team that played in Atlanta last night and lost to the Thrashers by a score of 4-3 in overtime. Playing a team that's on a back to back is, considered by people that watch the games, to be a distinct advantage, but the Stars got beat convincingly by a "tired" Los Angeles team on Thursday 5-2 after they had played in Chicago the night before.
In that loss the Stars pulled starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen after a short handed goal made it 4-1, Kings. Andrew Raycroft finished the third period and faced minimal rubber along the way. He could make his first start of the season tonight but many feel Crawford will go back to Lehtonen. Coach would not name a starting goaltender on Friday afternoon following practice.
The Stars will have to break out of their funk in front of another small crowd as the Texas Rangers will be playing Game Three of the World Series at the same time. (Here in the Metroplex, no less)
The Stars have scored only two even strength goals in their last 10 periods of hockey and Crawford will juggle the lines a little to try and spark some chemistry...
Jamie Benn played a lot of right win on Thursday night after getting moved up to the Ribeiro/Morrow combination in lieu of Adam Burish. The trio did not produce a goal (Ribeiro/Morrow line has not scored in FOUR straight games) but will stay together tonight, evidently and Burish will move down with Wandell and Ott.
The Stars lost their only meeting with Buffalo last season by a score of 5-3 in New York.
The second period struggles of last season are starting to haunt Dallas again. Both the Ducks and Kings were able to weather great first periods by the Stars and score a couple of goals in the second despite lack of zone time.
Dallas built their 4-0 start on opportunistic goal scoring and strong goaltending, but that's exactly the way they've been beat three straight at home. An ugly goal on a timely bounce is due tonight. They finally fixed their shot differential problem (which plagued them, despite winning) but have been losing ever since.
Lines are expected to look something like this...
That last combination have scored the Stars only two even strength goals (Sutherby and Segal) in 10 periods. They've received none in that time from Richards, Eriksson, Neal, Morrow or Ribiero.
Goaltender Ryan Miller started in Atlanta last night so it remains to be seen what will happen in the Buffalo net on Saturday.
The Stars have not beaten the Sabres since 2003.
At 3-6-2, Buffalo is experiencing hard times like the Stars are and their fans are wondering if the season is already doomed. Die By the Blade...
A total of 9 teams out of 44 have started the season with a losing record after 10 games and still made the playoffs. Most of those teams were 4-6 or 4-5-1 which means they earned as many more points while still losing.
What does this mean for the Sabres this season. Right now, it doesn't look good, but we as fans already knew that. Bad starts do not beget bad teams but they do beget bad seasons. This team came off a division winning season with most of the roster intact and now the defense can't seem to stop stumbling over themselves. Myers isn't playing to the level he was last season and Steve Montador is the Sabres best defenseman at this point, which is a problem.
Come on guys, it's too early for that talk.
Buffalo averages a salty 33.2 SOG/G but a pretty average 2.73 G/G.
They are winless at home but actually very competitive on the road, going 3-2-1 on the young season. Like the Ducks, don't underestimate them. They'll be as determined and hungry as the Stars should be on Saturday night.