How can two franchises on such similarly spectacular slides (alliteration is fun) be on such different playoff paths? Both teams are on abysmal post-Olympic runs, yet the Senators, only 6 points ahead of the Stars, look as solid a playoff lock as the Stars look a playoff miss.
The Stars are 2-6-1 since the break and the Senators are 1-6-1. While Dallas has wins over Washington and San Jose to look back fondly on, the Senators have only beaten the Oilers in March. These teams haven't seen each other in 15 months; December 20th 2008, when the Senators beat Dallas 5-4 in overtime at Ottawa. I highlighted the Stars futility against the eastern conference yesterday: Dallas has the worst points percentage against the east in the western conference, and this game represents the final meeting with "the other half" this season.
The Stars keep very slim mathematical playoff hopes alive this morning. They would need to win out, basically, and get some help to have a fighting chance. Dallas carries an abysmal 1-3-2 mark in afternoon games this season into this one today.
Follow the jump for more on both teams, starting goaltender, and an injury report...
I went out to practice yesterday, and gleaned very little useful information. Kari Lehtonen left the ice first, and subsequently was named the starting netminder for Saturdays game by Marc Crawford.
Word was that Mike Modano came by practice for 15 minutes and is suffering from none of the complications that Steve Ott did after his appendectomy. He's on track for a late March-Early April comeback.
Other than that, practice was a pretty "ho-hum" affair, complete with long faces in the beginning that turned to smiles on a few toward the end. Of particular interest at practice were Loui Eriksson and James Neal, who engaged in a couple of chess-like one-on-one battles at the end of practice, most of which ended in "wrestling" on the ice, hooking, holding, or great big smiles on their faces. And why not? They deserve to have a little fun after a lousy week.
I'd expect lines to still look like this:
This game is #5 of a 6 game home stand that so far has seen Dallas go 1-2-1. After the game against the Coyotes tomorrow, they will embark on a 4 game, 8 day road trip.
SB Nation friends Silver Seven bring you an Ottawa goaltending controversy of sorts...
Goaltending Controversy: Welcome back, old friend. It wouldn't be Ottawa without a goaltending controversy. Cory Clouston's favourite is clearly Elliott, but Leclaire has been the better goalie since the break. Leclaire probably deserved the start tonight and definitely deserves it on Saturday in Dallas. But honestly, neither goalie has been winning games. The Senators have one win since the Olympics and only 3 of a possible 16 points. The cushion built up by the 11-game win streak is quickly deflating. Fickle fans will probably demand the return of Mike Brodeur if Leclaire can't put up a win on Saturday. And you know what? If neither Leclaire or Elliott can do the job, you might as well call up Not Martin. What's the worst that could happen?
The Stars weak record against the East aside, only a team in the Eastern conference could have this many problems and make the playoffs. (Insert Sharks joke here)
This is one of those opponents that usually brings a good crowd to the AAC, which I think we'll welcome with open arms today. If they're wearing a Sens jersey, you know they're pretty hardcore. It's not like the Sens have every won anything, so these people are quite properly dedicated.
The last time the Senators were in Dallas was December 7th, 2007. They won 4-2, and the game featured Mike Smith and Nick Hagman.
Dallas: Modano (appendix), Wandell (knee)
Ottawa: Milan Michalek (questionable, leg)