After two days of rest and relaxation, the NHL schedule roars back to life on Sunday with 11 games and the Dallas Stars start a hellish week against very dangerous opponents, starting with the Phoenix Coyotes that spanked them 5-2 two weeks ago. Dallas is in a tenuous first-place tie in the Western Conference but a rough week that also includes Nashville, Detroit and Vancouver could bring massive standings re-shuffling before 2011 begins five days from now.
This is the third meeting between these clubs. The Stars blew the Coyotes out of the water with four power play goals back in the first week of November but a 5-2 dominant Phoenix win 15 days ago evened the score at one game a piece. The Stars haven't lost a game in regulation since and the Coyotes have won only once. Phoenix is desperate for a win tonight, just like Calgary was on Thursday.
As of late Christmas night it is not yet known whether or not Ilya Bryzgalov, who missed several games last week, will be able to play in Dallas. The NHL.com preview says he's on injured reserve but there's no other evidence on the net to support that. (and Travis Hair from Five For Howling tells me he's not on IR...)
This is the final game of a six game road trip for Phoenix. They're 1-3-1 so far and have allowed 3.8 goals per game in that stretch (without Bryzgalov). They'll be looking to end their trip on a strong note tonight on FS SW at 7:00pm CST.
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Dallas is coming off a rather unsavory effort on Thursday night that saw them register only six shots on goal through two periods while Calgary dictated play for large stretches of the game. Despite that, the Stars were in position to win the game with less than two minutes to go but a breakdown in coverage sprung Alex Tanguay and he tied the game. The Flames would win in a shootout.
With no news for two days it's tough to tell what Marc Crawford is thinking here, but with the back to back coming on Tuesday and Wednesday we'd like to assume that Kari Lehtonen gets the start against Phoenix and that Andrew Raycroft will start either in Nashville or against Detroit.
The team is relatively healthy. Karlis Skrastins missed Thursday's game with a bruised quadricep but could return tonight, forcing either Matt Niskanen or Mark Fistric out of the lineup once again.
The Stars were victims of an 18 shot, three goal first period last time against the Coyotes. The deficit was too much to overcome despite out-shooting Phoenix in the end. Special teams were the story of that game as the Yotes scored a PP goal and a short-handed goal. Discipline tonight and a strong power play would go a long way to reverse what happened last time.
The 16 shot performance against the Flames dropped the Stars (27.2 S/G) to 28th in the league.
Two words: Shane Doan. The forward had none next to nothing offensively coming into their last meeting and then blasted the Stars for two goals in the first period. He LOVES to play Dallas.
Here's a recap of Phoenix's latest outing in San Jose from SB Nation Arizona:
After declaring themselves focused after a dismal performance against the Penguins in Pittsburgh, the Phoenix Coyotes came out flat again on Thursday night, dropping their fourth game of the road trip, 4-1, against the Sharks in San Jose.
It was the third time on the road trip that the Coyotes have failed to score more than one goal, with all three not surprisingly ending in losses for the Desert Dogs. They have been outscored 10-2 in their last two, and have been outscored 19-8 in regulation on the road trip.
The one positive for the Yotes on Thursday was the play of backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera. With Ilya Bryzgalov still suffering from an upper body injury, LaBarbera received his fourth consecutive start, despite a poor performance at Pittsburgh. He was much more impressive than that Monday start, making 35 saves, but still giving up the four goals.
The similarities to Calgary on Thursday are mounting. The Coyotes need a strong effort and they're going to look to dictate play to the Stars.
When Phoenix gets a lead heading into the third period they are 11-0-2. When they lead after one they are 8-0-3. You don't want to play from behind against a Dave Tippett team. They simply do not lose games when leading at intermission.
Check out Five For Howling for all your Coyotes needs.