The Dallas Stars return home boasting a six game road winning streak, all against Western Conference foes. That stretch is their best away from home in nine years, but they come back to the scene of some anguish to end 2010: The American Airlines Center.
Dallas lost their last four games at home in December by a combined score of 13-6 including 7-3 and 4-1 losses to the Red Wings and Canucks. As good as they've been lately on the road, they must rectify the situation in front of the home crowd and stop the skid. Prior to that stretch the Stars had gone and incredible 11-0-1 at the AAC.
The New York Rangers, meanwhile, return to Dallas for the first time since February of 2009 when the Stars engaged in a little Texas-sized hospitality, beating the Blue Shirts by a score of 10-2.
The Rangers roll into town with the distinction of having the most road wins in the league, 13 (tied with the Flyers), so they're no slouches on the road. They've played three road games in the Western Conference, going 1-2 with losses in Colorado and Columbus. The lone win came in a 5-2 game at Minnesota. They'll play in St. Louis tomorrow night after departing the Metroplex.
The Stars are dealing with some pretty interesting injury problems all of a sudden and have called up help from the Texas Stars to round out the blue line. How the pairs might shake out is an item of some intrigue...
Continued after the jump...
Bottom line: Sean Avery, in earning a goal and three assists in these team's lone meeting last season "won the breakup." He was everywhere that game. The Stars were just coming off a 4-0 loss in New Jersey, lost that game to New York 5-2, and lost Mike Ribeiro to a scary throat spearing injury. If ever there was a night to avenge, it's that one.
But the Stars mustn't get sucked into that game. That's what Sean Avery wants you to do. Dallas is looking to snap a four game home losing streak and the answer lies not in revenge, but in the penalty kill.
The Stars allowed 5 PP goals on only seven tries to the Canucks and Red Wings to end the month in December and must get the home PK back on track if they're to beat a very tough opponent in the NY Rangers.
That's where Karlis Skrastins' absence will hurt them the most. Skrastins and Niskanen injured each other in a third period warmup skate in Chicago and both are out this evening, wiping out one of three defensive pairs for Marc Crawford. Philip Larsen has been called up and Mark Fistric will return to the lineup after a healthy scratch, but how the pairings will shape up is anyone's guess until morning skate later today.
Same thing in goal, thought the assumption right now is probably that Kari Lehtonen will get the start. We shall see.
We'll have more on Sean Avery's comments in the news this week later this morning.
New York scores more goals than the Stars do (2.90), allow fewer goals than the Stars do (2.51), and have a stellar road record. One thing they do not do particularly well, however, is win faceoffs.
They're 28th in the league at 45.7%. Faceoff supremacy was a big reason for the Stars win in St. Louis on Sunday, but Blackhawks dominance (late in the game that is) was a big reason Chicago controlled much of the play and chances on Wednesday. As usual, take a look at how things are shaping up on the dot in this one and how the play ebbs and flows accordingly.
The Rangers lone win on the road in the West came at Minnesota when Marion Gaborik made his return to the city he called home for so long. The team responded by getting a 5-2 win for him in convincing fashion, and one wonders whether or not that will be the same aim for Sean Avery returning to Dallas.
Also of interest will be the crowd's reaction to Sean Avery. There have been few truly divisive, polarizing players for the Stars in recent years and given the chance to show their displeasure with the entire fiasco, not to mention the fact that the Stars still pay roughly $2 million a year in salary to him, they could get vocal. We shall see.
The Rangers power play is 0-11 in their last four games.
They're missing forward Ryan Callahan with a broken hand he got blocking a shot on December 15th. He's their second leading scorer.