The Dallas Stars return home victorious once again having won their 7th road game in a row, a 4-0 shutout of the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. That ties a franchise record on the road. Things are not as rosy on the home front where Dallas has lost five in a row by a combined score of 18 to 8.
They'll try to remedy that tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. A bit of a schedule making oddity, it's game #44 for the Stars and yet the first meeting between the two. Odder still is that after waiting so long to get together they'll see each other in three of the Stars' next seven games, nearly completing the season series before the month is out. As such, much of January depends on these three tilts with the young Oil.
Edmonton is a Western Conference worst 13-20-7 and are struggling through a season that's been handed to "the kids". Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark... their roster reads like a "who's who" of top prospects and exciting young players to anyone who has followed the World Juniors, NHL drafts and major juniors, but they've been unable to string it together this year outside of a four game win streak in early December.
Still, they're improving on the road going 4-3-1 in their last eight and they represent exactly the kind of young and fast team that has given these Stars fits for several years now, so getting back in the win column on home ice will be no walk in the park.
Continued after the jump...
Dallas is dealing with a small rash of injury problems, mainly on defense. Following the unusual pre-period skate mishap between Niskanen and Skrastins in Chicago last week, Philip Larsen and Mark Fistric have filled in nicely. Though they've played reduced minutes as a pair, they have not been on the ice for a goal against yet in this stretch. They're expected to continue on in this fashion Tuesday night.
Crawford told the Morning News on Monday that Skrastins is getting close and has no symptoms from what the team was worried could be a head injury, but Niskanen (laceration on the palm of his hand) was not nearly as close. They'll monitor his situation closely heading into this three day break after Edmonton but we'd be surprised if he were ready on Saturday for Atlanta.
Toby Petersen remains out, but close to his return. With Brandon Segal on waivers and Petersen out, Dallas carries just 12 healthy forwards and 6 healthy d-men.
Dallas will know later today (11am) if Segal cleared waivers and can be assigned to the Texas Stars or if someone claimed him. The Stars claimed him off the Kings waivers less than a year ago and he's been a good fit for the Stars 4th line, but the Langenbunner trade meant someone needed to be sent down.
The Stars have not won the special teams battle at home in their five game slide. The Rangers scored PP and SH goals, the Canucks scored three PP goals, the Wings 2... They battled the Flames and Coyotes to even on special teams. They'll want to find themselves on the plus side of special teams goals if they're to break the losing streak tonight.
While the Devils have an impregnable stranglehold on the worst GF/G, the Oilers actually own the worst GA/G in the league at a charitable 3.30. Add to that the league's 4th worst 5on5 GF/GA ratio at 0.78 and the 24th ranked offense in the NHL.
That GA/G actually jumps to 3.63 on the road for the Oilers. Ouch.
The Oilers are said to be conducting a little experiment with their #1 draft pick Taylor Hall and moving him to the center position, much the same way the Stars did with Jamie Benn last season, so keep an eye on that as the action unfolds.
It's remarkable to think that with all these top prospects already the Oilers could end up with another high lottery pick at the conclusion of this season. As the league had "seen" teams like the Blackhawks and Kings coming with all of their talented young players for quite some time, so too should the Oilers be seen. Without doubt the talent to compete and do great things will be in Edmonton in a few short years.
NHL.com has their injury report...
Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney has been sidelined for the last six games with an ankle injury and defenseman Jim Vandermeer missed Friday's game with his own ankle problem. The team recalled defenseman Taylor Chorney from AHL Oklahoma City on Monday to help fill the void on the blue line. Rookie forward Jordan Eberle hasn't played since suffering an ankle injury New Year's Day, followed by an emergency appendectomy Jan. 5.
The Oil have not won a game in regulation at the AAC in their last six tried.
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