Columbus was not a friendly venue for the Dallas Stars last year. Despite heroic goaltending efforts from Marty Turco they dropped games in Ohio by scores of 2-1 and 2-0. Offense has been a problem on the road this year as well. Before their four goal outburst in Raleigh last week the Stars had managed only eight total goals in their previous six road games. They are 1-3-0 on the road in the Western Conference this year.
Dallas is 8-1-1 in their last ten and has a six game winning streak. A win tonight would tie the franchise mark for longest win streak at seven and would be the first time they've accomplished it since February of 2008. The team also had a six game win-streak that year.
Not long ago the Columbus Blue Jackets were where the Stars are now. They looked like world beaters having defeated the likes of the Kings, Canadiens, Blues, Sharks and Ducks in November. They rose to the top of the Western Conference just behind the Wings, as Dallas has now. Then they fell, and fell hard, losing their next five games. It's a path the Stars will try to avoid as a very busy, difficult December wears on.
Tonight will be the first time that Derek Dorsett will play against the Stars since being hit in the shoulder since being hit by James Neal in the teams first meeting last season. Dorsett had some interesting things to say about Neal last December:
"There's nothing worse than a guy who runs around, throwing cheap hits and sucker punching players and he won't fight," Dorsett said. "He's been playing this way since he was in juniors." [Blue Jackets Xtra]
I'll let you guys comment on that one, and we'll hope that James Neal makes a statement on the score sheet, as he often does.
More after the jump...
Because of the aforementioned (one sided) hostilities already in place for this one, it will be important for the Stars to stay out of the box and keep their cool, even if they should decide to activate "hard to play against" mode. With Burish and Ott paired up and having a good run of defensive hockey lately, the Blue Jackets could have ample agitation on multiple fronts should they desire it. The Blue Jacket PP (10%) has not been good, but neither has the Stars penalty killing on the road.
Kari Lehtonen will start in goal tonight and is scheduled to start in Chicago on Wednesday as well.
Aaron Gagnon will be in the lineup for the Stars, making his second appearance of the season. The 24 year old will take Toby Petersen's place on the fourth line with Brian Sutherby and Tom Wandell. Steve Ott will center the third line. Gagnon will play wing rather than his natural center ice position.
Toby Petersen (hand) and Krys Barch (ankle/foot) are both out. Petersen is doubtful for Wednesday. Barch has been placed on IR and is not eligible until the weekend.
Mark Fistric is getting closer and could play as early as Wednesday, though, Woywitka has been solid in relief so if the team keeps winning, Crawford could have an interesting decision to make.
A five game losing streak isn't pretty but their opponents have been of the "stellar" variety. It started with two games lost to the Red Wings (the Stars have two games with the Wings coming up this month, coincidentally) and continued this Saturday with a 7-2 loss to the Penguins who are the hottest team in the league right now. So it's not like they're losing to the Maple Leafs.
They've allowed 21 goals in those five games.
You can visit Jackets Cannon for the chatter from the other side:
After two frustrating and humbling losses that capped a week where the team went 0-3-1, a Jackets team that was challenging for top in the West last Friday has fallen to eighth place, hanging onto a playoff spot by a tiebreaker.
To say this isn't where the team wants to be is an understatement, but it's worth considering that a single win tonight would rejuvenate them back to sixth in the standings, and a win on Thursday could push them back into fourth.
Facing a Dallas team that have won their past six games, there's no better way to get another winning streak started than snapping someone else's.
Remember to come back here after the game (if you're not already in the GDT) because we'll be doing a live post-game show on Blog Talk Radio. So tune in and give us a call.