The Dallas Stars head back out on the road tonight for their first of two swings through Western Canada, playing the familiar Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver circuit. They've won seven straight road games and look to set a new franchise record for consecutive victories away from home at eight when they visit the Edmonton Oilers at 8:00pm CST at Rexall Place.
Dallas has worked hard to keep their Pacific Division lead for over 50 days now but find themselves just six points ahead of the Coyotes and only eight points away from ninth place. Even with all of their success, there is still barely any room for error in the tough Western Conference. Games against Edmonton and Calgary must not be taken lightly but are an opportunity to put invaluable points "in the bank."
The Oil generally out-skated and out-chanced the Stars in their first meeting this month but came away empty handed as Dallas squeezed a narrow 3-2 victory out of it.
The teams traded disallowed goals at key moments of the game, the emotions ran high, and the hitting was ferocious, causing tempers to rise throughout. As entertaining as it was, the Stars knew they need a more complete effort against a young, hard skating team like that to ensure similar results in the future.
The Stars will likely need to give up fewer than the 41 shots they allowed Edmonton to pepper Kari Lehtonen with to get the victory tonight. Join us here in the GDT at 8:00pm CST and enjoy Ralph and Razor with the call on FS SW...
Continued after the jump...
As of this writing the Dallas Stars are potentially dealing with several injuries that will shake up the chemistry of the third and fourth lines and cause the team some consternation as they try to keep the ball rolling in the West.
Adam Burish blocked a few too many shots in the third period of the Kings game on Monday and is said to be questionable, leaving the Ott/Benn/Burish express in doubt for Thursday night, and Brian Sutherby is experiencing some bumps and bruises as well.
The team called up Francis Wathier and Aaron Gagnon from Texas and they are on the trip. The question is how many will need to be used and how would you use them?
The remnants of the fourth line would then feature Tom Wandell and Krys Barch. Do you put Wathier on that line and Gagnon on the third? Do you play Steve Ott on the 4th line just to provide some veteran presence and NHL competency there with the puck? Do you move Langebrunner back to the third to stabilize things with a veteran presence in the bottom six? It will be interesting to see how much adjustment is necessary and how Marc Crawford plays it.
Also a mystery as of early in the morning is his starting netminder. With the back to back Crawford could choose to play either guy tonight. Raycroft has won his last two road starts in Nashville and Minnesota in spectacular fashion. He could prove a valuable option to give this road swing a shakeup and some focus at it's start.
Having lost 12 of their last 14, I will spare you the usual speech about why the Stars should fear this opponent. They probably shouldn't, but given their last meeting anything is possible. Edmonton did go on to beat the Sharks 5-2 after that game so a certain wariness is certainly warranted, but this is without a doubt the worst team in the conference. If the Stars fancy themselves equal to their current standing then the way forward is clear.
Edmonton's leading scorer, Ales Hemsky, was pulled from their last game with concussion like symptoms and it appears as though he may have suffered it prior to that game. As such it is not expected that he will play tonight against the Stars.
Derek Zona of The Copper & Blue has always been and continues to be a good friend of this blog, but we recall his words here that followed the last meeting of these two teams out of something other that friendship. Rather an example of the venom and vitriol that comes from the Oil fan in general when discussing the Stars:
...Brenden Morrow. It takes a helluva man to throw a punch at Kurtis Foster as he's being held back. Morrow and Steve Avery should get together for a brawl, though they'll need to make sure they have plenty of people nearby to hide behind as they call each other on. Derian Hatcher is gone, but his stench still surrounds Morrow.
Oddly enough the same sort of disgust seemed to come from the Oilers themselves during the Stars 3-2 win in Dallas on January 11th. We'll see if the unexpected emotion of that game carries over, and whether or not it has any affect on the Stars as they play back to back in Calgary tomorrow at the same time.
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