The Dallas Stars will go on searching for the first road victory since November 29th tonight at the tank in San Jose when they take on the Sharks for only the second time this season. The Pacific Division is not shaking out as many figured it would, and the Sharks would like to do something about that here tonight. A win would tie them with the Stars at 36 points.
The Sharks have won three of their last four games in impressive fashion, defeating the Red Wings, the Flyers and the defending Stanley Cup champ Blackhawks (who steamrolled the Stars last week). Beating three of the top teams in the league like that and the chance to take the division lead away from Dallas should bolster their confidence greatly tonight, one would think.
The Stars, meanwhile, are looking for just their second Western Conference road win of the season. They've been out-scored 25-12 on the road in the west and have scored an average of 1.71 goals per game over that stretch. The offense has simply not been there and the road power play has been a well publicized reason why.
Kari Lehtonen remains in Dallas nursing a sore back and Andrew Raycroft will make his third start in four nights and fourth in a row overall.
The game is on FS SW+ tonight, so please be sure to find your alternate channel before joining us for a late night gameday thread.
Continued after the jump...
Last year the road woes got so bad that only a visit to impotent Edmonton on January 22nd could snap the streak. Coincidentally, their first visit to Edmonton this season is coming on January 20th, but let's not drag this out that long. Mostly because Edmonton is much better this year and they're the kind of young team that will definitely give the Stars fits with their skating.
No, let's get a result tonight. A four points lead with a game in hand over the Sharks will make it that much more intriguing when San Jose comes to the AAC on Thursday and the Stars would really have an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the Sharks. Or am I dreaming?
The road power play is getting to the point where it is getting into their heads a little bit. Razor acknowledged it on the broadcast Saturday night and the players said as much after the game. A meaningless power play goal in the waning stages of a Phoenix blowout did little to alleviate the pressure building there. The Stars are getting plenty of opportunities when the games are still close but have been unable to connect.
Maybe it's as simply as Crawford said Saturday. Maybe they need a little bit of "puck luck."
Mark Fistric could return to the lineup tonight and the pairs could use a shakeup. My guess is that Woywitka comes out but Matt Niskanen is not out of the realm of possibility.
As always we encourage you to check out Fear The Fin for their unique take on all things Sharks. From their game preview this morning:
Just like the Sharks' struggles, though, I'm inclined to believe that the Stars won't be leading the Pacific for long. Don't get me wrong, I'm thoroughly impressed with their season thus far and especially their forwards; James Neal is quickly becoming one of the best players in the Western Conference, and Loui Eriksson continues to score in bunches. Brad Richards, who leads the team with 34 points this season, is having a renaissance year.
However, they're winning despite their power play and penalty kill, which rank 22nd and 27th in the league, respectively. Somehow, though, they're finding a way to win... even with league average goals for and goals against numbers.
The Sharks, on the other hand, boast the 7th best power play and the 14th ranked penalty kill. They're getting an average of three goals a game, and have looked better as of late... something that their 4-2 record in December would suggest.
Pretty hard to argue with any of that at this point until we're given evidence otherwise. (Please? tonight?)