"You don't let losses linger and you go out and adjust and get better the next game. This was Game 2 and the idea is to get better for Game 3 and we know we can." Those were the words of Stars backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft after a 5-2 defeat Saturday in Chicago. The Stars continue a run of three games in four nights to open the season this afternoon at home and face a team looking to 'adjust and forget' as much as they are in the Phoenix Coyotes.
Phoenix took a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Sharks Saturday night in strikingly similar fashion to the Stars loss at the United Center. San Jose out-possessed the Coyotes greatly and received better netminding, blitzing the Coyotes to the tune of a 4-0 lead at about mid-game. Shots were 52-29 in favor of the Sharks when all was said and done.
The Coyotes took four of six from the Stars last season and have won a staggering 17 of the team's last 26 meetings. The Stars have managed only a single home win versus the Coyotes in each of the last three seasons. The difference this season, of course, is who's in the pipes for the dogs: It's no longer Ilya Bryzgalov.
Former Dallas Stars netminder Mike Smith (departed in the Brad Richards trade) returns tonight back stopping the team against whom he made his first ever NHL start in 2006. Kari Lehtonen will be in net for the Stars tonight.
Remember that tonight's start is an early one: 5:00pm CDT due to the holiday (Columbus Day). There's also a little baseball game that will still be taking place at the start of this one. You may have heard of it. Come on out to the AAC and watch the end in the Jack Daniels Club.
Injuries and more line discussion after the jump...
Adam Burish returned to the lineup Saturday night, pushing Toby Petersen out of the lineup for the time being. Vincour remained on a line with Benn and Loui Eriksson, and Steve Ott started the night with former Coyote Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak.
By the time the second period started, things were already changing, however. Glen Gulutzan paired Steve Ott with the Benn/Eriksson combination, moved Burish to the Fiddler/Dvorak line, and greatly reduced Tomas Vincour's minutes down the stretch, playing him with Jake Dowell and Tom Wandell sparingly down the stretch.
Gulutzan has said that line combinations do not mean as much as their system and structure do: That he should be able to plug forwards in on any line and see the same details of their game. It's probably not worth speculating on it at this point, but here are the lines as we saw them at the end of the Chicago game:
It's anyone's guess on who plays tonight, but it's a possibility that Vincour sits while Krys Barch or Toby Petersen take a turn. Phoenix doesn't present the same matchup problems that Chicago does with two dangerous even strength scoring lines.
The Stars will not have a morning skate today. News out of Frisco on Sunday was that Morrow and Fiddler both sustained minor dings on Saturday night but that both are probable for action tonight.
Adam Pardy (cracked rib) and Nicklass Grossman (groin) continue to be out and are expected to be possibilities on Thursday, leaving Mark Fistric and Philip Larsen in on the blue line.
Both teams will be looking to have a more disciplined effort after the Coyotes took seven minor penalties in their opener and the Stars have 10 already in two games.
Michal Rozsival took a puck to the face on Saturday night and did not return, leaving the Coyotes short on defense for much of the game. Phoenix defensemen took five minor penalties against the Sharks on Saturday, suggesting that they could be susceptible to a little pressure from Dallas, who needs an opportunity to work on their power play, which is just 1 of 7 to start the year (and not getting quality scoring chances from the perceived top unit of Ribeiro/Morrow/Ryder yet).
Top offensive threats from the Coyotes include noted Star-killer Shane Doan, newly acquired Daymond Langkow, and Ray Whitney, but the majority of their group plays with a "team first" attitude and a predisposition for defense minded hockey. With Marc Crawford's style out, and Glen Gulutzan's resembling Tippett's (at times) it will be interesting to see what kind of game we'll see. A 1-0 result could be in the offing if both teams are willing to muck it up and see who flinches first.
Here's a discussion of Mike Smith's night from CSN San Jose:
By our count, Smith allowed two soft goals on Saturday night - the one my Michal Handzus in the first period, in which Smith failed to protect the near post, and Andrew Desjardins' second goal where Smith just didn't look ready.
The other goals came via the power play (there were three of those), and Desjardins' breakaway. Oh, and the Sharks fired 52 shots on net.
Smith, to his credit, was strong in the third period after coach Dave Tippett surprisingly decided to leave him in after allowing six goals through 40 minutes. The move paid off as Smith is bound to have more confidence his next time out than if he had been pulled.
"He battled hard in the third," said Tippett. "I didn't like what we did in front of the goalie as opposed to the goalie."