The Dallas Stars will try to avoid their third three game losing streak of the season tonight when they do battle with the Edmonton Oilers at the American Airlines Center at 6:30pm CST.
This is their third and final meeting in January. Dallas has taken the other two in hotly contested affairs by scores of 3-2 and 4-2 (empty net goal). The Oilers played in Phoenix last night and defeated the Coyotes by a score of 4-3 on a last minute goal by Dustin Penner.
The Stars enter play tonight trying to put the last five days behind them. The club lost two games in a row by a combined score of 14-5, including a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Canucks in what was billed as a "clash between division leaders." With no time to practice between now and then it's on the players right the ship and get back into the win column before the All-Star break.
Two points tonight would go a long way toward washing the bad taste in our mouths left by Vancouver but this Edmonton team has proven very effective against the Stars. Keep an eye on that Ryan Jones (#28), who has a goal in both Dallas games this year.
The Coyote loss on Tuesday leaves them still six points behind the Stars but the Ducks are riding a 7-3-0 streak in their last ten games and now sit just three points back in the Pacific. Dallas has earned points in all four January home games (3-0-1).
Tonight's game is a rare 6:30pm home start due to Canadian television considerations so if you're coming please keep that in mind in order to get to your seat for the 6:38 puck drop.
Dallas' biggest challenge tonight, apart from attempting to beat a team for a third time in a single calendar month (rarely happens) is their injury situation.
Jeff Woywitka, Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell are all doubtful for tonight's contest and the lines will be shuffled accordingly. The nature of the Benn and Wandell injuries is not currently known but they are thought to be day to day, unofficially.
The absence of Benn causes the potency of their top three lines to disappear and Steve Ott and Adam Burish will be left to wreak havoc in other ways without the young phenom. They could see Aaron Gagnon on their line. Meanwhile the fourth line will likely include Brian Sutherby (who's also been banged up recently) and Krys Barch along side rookie Travis Morin, who could make his NHL debut tonight.
Sans Benn, the power play is still largely intact. Dallas has connected only once on the PP against the Oil in five tries this month while the Oilers have gone scoreless in seven attempts. The Stars lost the special teams battle in each of their last two games. A clean penalty kill would go a long way toward restoring confidence and momentum heading into the All-Star break.
Kari Lehtonen will start in goal and attempt to bounce back from a seven goals against performance in Vancouver on Monday. Edmonton has put 73 pucks on net in two games this month, all on Kari Lehtonen who won both matchups.
For just the third time in their last 17 games the Oilers took two points last night and in the process did the Dallas Stars a pretty big favor. They scored with 21 seconds remaining in Phoenix to deny the Coyotes any ground gained on the idle Stars. The Coyotes have now lost four straight in regulation at home.
Despite their record, they are more than capable of playing teams close, as the Stars well know, including a shootout loss to the Predators earlier in the week and two one goal losses (plus an empty netter) against Dallas in January.
Their games against the Stars have been contentious, fast paced affairs in which they have out-shot the Stars by very wide margins. (41-20, 32-24).
Edmonton is expected to be without D Ryan Whitney (knee), RW Ales Hemsky (concussion), and RW Jordan Eberle (ankle).
Devan Dubnyk has provided two solid starts in goal for the Oil in consecutive games so we'll hazard a guess at Nikolai Khabibulin in this spot tonight as they play their third in four nights. (Which doesn't affect a young team like this, btw).
The Oilers have lost seven straight road games at the American Airlines Center (6-0-1).
Here is a good discussion of the Oilers goaltending situation. [Edmonton Journal]
The Copper & Blue has all of your Oiler needs at SB Nation.