The Dallas Stars, still clinging to the smallest of mathematical chances at a playoff birth, if you like, will try to improve upon their disastrous Tuesday outing in Nashville tonight when they play their third and final contest of the season in San Jose. Disastrous outing you say? They won 3-1! True, but they were also dominated territorially for enormous stretches of the game, and only mustered 14 shots on goal. The third period, widely believed to be there best on Tuesday, saw only 4 of those shots. Kari Lehtonen was superb in the win.
They'll have to be much better tonight if they want to continue their dominance in San Jose (9-2-1 in their last 12).
Despite being 20 points behind the Sharks in the standings, the Stars have fared well against them, winning three of the first four meetings. Two victories at the Shark Tank (or whatever it's called these days) saw defensemen Stephane Robidas and Matt Niskanen pot game winners against Nabokov, and last weeks' 8-2 mercy killing at the AAC is still fresh on everyone's mind. Particularly the mind of the Shark fan, but we'll get to that in a minute.
The Sharks are trying to get their feet back under them after ending a six game losing streak against the Wild earlier this week. Revenge on Dallas tonight would go a long way toward boosting their confidence as they try to get back on track before meeting their most hated rival: The Playoffs.
Who's in goal tonight? What are those whacky guys at Fear the Fin saying? Follow the jump...
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News spoke with Marc Crawford yesterday about his starting netminder in SJ:
After listening to him, I'm speculating that Marty Turco will be in net. He is 23-13-1 in his career against the Sharks with a 2.27 GAA ad a .912 save percentage. He has two 3-2 shootout wins out there this year.
So if that proves correct, Marty Turco will be starting his last game at HP Pavilion in a Stars uniform. Something tells me the Shark fan will not be sad to see him elsewhere.
Mike Modano, skating, but still recovering from an appendectomy will not join the team on this four game trip. The earliest he can return is against these same Sharks next Wednesday in Dallas. Doctors orders, apparently.
After starting 7 defensemen in Nashville and shuffling the forward lines a bit to compensate, Crawford said he'll go back to 6 tonight. After scoring a goal, I would guess that Matt Niskanen is in rather than Woywitka.
Fun fact: According to my count, Tuesday was the first time all year that Dallas got goals from two different defensemen in the same game. Did I say fun? Maybe it's just sad. It was only the 4th time this year they got multiple contributions from the blue line. The other three were: Skrastins twice against Detroit, Robidas twice against New Jersey, and Robidas twice @ Atlanta.
For all the talk about "activating the defense," that is what we have so far.
The Mercury News, despite having printed this a week ago, went back to it yesterday:
In the Sharks' 8-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, Ryane Clowe's open-ice hit on defenseman Stephane Robidas stirred things up in the first period.
At one point, Clowe said, he turned down a chance to fight Dallas captain Brenden Morrow "because I have a hard time fighting guys who are the top players on other teams."
Instead, Clowe fought Stars forward Krystofer Barch a few minutes later.
Yet against Calgary three nights later, Clowe did drop the gloves with Flames captain Jarome Iginla in an attempt to spark the Sharks. Huh?
"I don't know, it was just one of those things that happened," Clowe said after the game. "Maybe I should have fought Morrow the other day and had a chance tonight to do that. He (Iginla) thinks he's a pretty tough guy, so why not?"
I would hypothesize that Robidas could take a retaliatory hit tonight, but Robidas is one of the most hit men in the NHL already (and he leads the league in hits by a d-man) so it won't be out of the ordinary.
And finally, please visit our friends at Fear the Fin, particularly if you're a doctor. Maybe you specialize in Ology-of-the-Psyche, because these boys need your help. They have a bit of a complex about Dallas. I won't label what kind of complex it is, but they have it.
Dallas is one of those organizations that just brings out the worst in people. You'll be headed down to the Brit before the game and see a grandmother smacking around some kid in a Modano jersey with her purse as ice cream dribbles down the star in the center of his chest. A mom and dad will be dropping off their kids at the police blockade in front of HP, and in between handing out twenties and blowing kisses, dad will lay on the horn and mom will scream a couple of obscenities while flipping off a group who flew in from Dallas to catch the game.
Morrow put a bullet in your chest two years ago. That's enough to put a hop in your step if you've recovered by now. Throw in a handful of playoff losses, shit relocation decisions, Mike Ribiero's basic existence, an 8-2 whooping last week, and you have a recipe for some serious bad blood.
You're not an American if you don't boo the National Anthem twice tonight. Those are just facts.
This is, of course, all in good fun. We have fun, we trash talk a little, but we do it respectfully. Partially because we really don't care what they think, and partially because we're decent humans and we try to keep it classy. So if you do go over there to Fear the Fin, represent Defending Big D well.