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Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars Host Colorado Avalanche

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Colorado Avalanche
@ Dallas Stars

Saturday, Nov 20, 2010, 7:00 PM CST
American Airlines Center


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The streaking Colorado Avalanche make their first visit to the American Airlines Center Saturday after having walloped the New York Rangers badly by a score of 5-1 in Denver last night. This is the second meeting between these two teams, the first being taken in dominating fashion at Pepsi Center two weeks ago, 5-0 Avalanche.

The Avs out-shot Dallas 45-31 that night, scored four times at even strength and added a short-handed tally in a game that felt pretty well decided by halfway through the second period. The Stars have had quite a bit of trouble with Colorado recently dropping four of their last five meetings going back to last season. Their last meeting in Dallas was a 5-3 Avalanche win on a Sunday afternoon in March.

The Avs have out-scored their opponents 15-7 in their last three games.

Craig Anderson made his first start for the Avs last night after missing nearly a month with a knee injury. Peter Budaj, who the Stars will likely see tonight, went 6-3-1 in Anderson's absence including that 5-0 shutout of the Stars.

The Stars faced a multi-goal deficit with less than three minutes to play on Thursday but came back to defeat the Sharks in OT despite large chunks of uneven play in San Jose's favor. They'll need a more complete effort tonight to contain the fast, young Avalanche who usually give them quite a fit.

Much more after the jump...

The Stars:

After embarking on their first Western Conference road trip of the year and losing all three games, the Stars have returned home to much better results, though they've come by the skin of their proverbial-teeth. Before their five goal outburst on Thursday Dallas had scored only five total goals in their previous four games.

With no real practice yesterday it's difficult to say what the lines will be. Jamie Benn started Thursday on a line with Burish and Ott and was playing with Ribeiro and Morrow by the time the game had ended. Benn has played with so many combinations already this season and has been noticeable with most of them.

If I had to guess I would say that Benn will stick with Ribeiro to try to continue to the resurgence that line enjoyed in completing the comeback on Thursday, but stranger things have happened.

If Benn were to stick up in the top six again it would leave the rest of it shaking out like this, potentially:

Ott-Wandell-Burish < - - ?

Predicting lines is often a fruitless exercise. We'll let you know more after morning skate.

No surprises in the Dallas net as Kari Lehtonen will make his 16th appearance this season in only 18 opportunities. Andrew Raycroft is expected to get a start in next weekends home and home series with the St. Louis Blues.

The Avs:

When last we saw the fledgling Avalanche they were allowing 3.50 goals per game on the season, good for 29th in the league. In their last seven games they've allowed only 15 total goals (15/7= 2.14 GA/G) so it looks like they've got that problem pretty well in hand. In fact a pace of 2.14 GA/G, if kept up, would be good enough for 3rd best in the league and seven games is a pretty nice little trend. Given the Stars inability to score in their last meeting (or indeed possess the puck), goal could be hard to come by.

The Colorado penalty kill is 76.6% on the season (compared to Dallas' 76.4%) and their power play is just better than 20%.

Allow me to quote from the recap of the Avs win last night...

David Jones, Kevin Porter, Kevin Shattenkirk and Daniel Winnik also had goals for the Avs, who went 3-0 on their homestand.

The other was scored by Matt Duchene. The average of the Colorado goal scorers last night: 24 years of age, and it's that youth that poses such a threat tonight. The young legs of the Avalanche don't care if they're on a back to back.

Mile High Hockey knows the Avs are good to go right now with Budaj, even if Anderson is back...

Amazingly, we're at paragraph four and we're just getting to the following: Craig Anderson is back. As of this writing (Thursday night), we don't know if it will be Anderson or Peter Budaj tonight (the Avs are also in action on Saturday). A few weeks ago, this would have been EXTREMELY IMPORTANT INFORMATION. But Budaj has played pretty darn good during Anderson's absence and has proven something shocking: the Avalanche can win without Craig Anderson. That is no knock on Andy, who absolutely carried this team last year. It's just that this right now this is a team that doesn't need a goalie to stand on his head to pull out the W. The Avs' offense is the key at the moment - the team is 4th in the league in scoring and has 4 players averaging a point a game. Maybe that won't last. Maybe it will. For now, though, it doesn't really matter who plays in net.