Friday, October 21st, 2011, 9:00 PM CDT
Opponent Blog: Anaheim Calling
The Dallas Stars enter divisional road play on a four game win streak. They've defeated the 0-5-1 Columbus Blue Jackets twice, the 2-4-0 St. Louis Blues, and the 2-3-1 Phoenix Coyotes in that span. Not to take away from those teams, who will surely be in contention for playoff spots throughout the year, but the Anaheim Ducks are playing a level or two above them, and the Stars sternest test of the young season awaits them tonight.
The Ducks carry with them their own four-game winning streak heading into this one and they've beaten some heavy hitters in the San Jose Sharks not once, but twice in getting there. Even more impressive than that, the Ducks have allowed only five total goals in their last four games, and they boast a 3-0 home record. Columbus gave the Stars fits through 40 minutes, but they've yet to see the likes of the Ducks.
The Stars dropped four of six to Anaheim last year (2-2-2) including a 1-1-1 mark at Honda Center. Anaheim figured devastatingly into the Dallas Stars post-season destiny (or lack thereof) when they pulled improbable victories from the jaws of sure defeat in Anaheim on March 4th and March 23rd. Had the Stars been able to close those games out they would have not only made the playoffs, but might've been the 5th or 6th seed instead of outside looking in at number nine.
The game marks the beginning of a division heavy stretch for the Stars with the Ducks, Kings, Coyotes and Kings again coming in the next four games.
Action will start at 9:00pm tonight on Fox Sports Southwest so plan to stay up late with us and party in the gameday thread. It's (by far) the best place to talk Stars hockey live.
A closer look at both teams after the jump...
Dallas is expected, for the second game in a row, to field a completely healthy roster. Sheldon Souray, being lauded heavily during the two day break for his strong start to the season, actually sat out practice on Thursday due to some pain in his wrist that sounds like something he's managed throughout his career. He received a shot for the pain and it's hoped that he'll be ready to go on Friday night.
Given the frequency with which he's been involved in generating Stars offense from point shots, Dallas fans hope he'll be ready too.
Otherwise the lineup is expected to be status quo outside the 4th line. Eric Nystrom had a couple of nice plays in his debut as a Dallas Star and Jake Dowell has yet to sit out a game, so that trio seems 2/3rds put together already with Barch, Wandell and Petersen all wanting a piece as well. That flexibility will give Gulutzan welcome options on the back to back in Los Angeles the next night.
Expect the other lines to persist as:
Kari Lehtonen will start in net. It's expected, though unconfirmed, that Andrew Raycroft will get the start at Staples Center on Saturday night against the dreaded Kings.
With the Ducks so stingy on defense and the Stars having been grossly outplayed in the early portions of their games thus far in the season (for the most part) it will be imperative for them to weather the early storm the Perry and Selanne lines bring, and then capitalize on special teams opportunities.
If you want to get real technical, the Ducks actually haven't allowed five goals in their last four games. It's only been four goals in their last four games. The OC Register explains:
The Sharks got a fluke goal credited to Marc-Edouard Vlasic as a clearing attempt by Lubomir Visnovsky ricocheted back through Ellis off a backchecking Bobby Ryan. Perry restored a two-goal advantage, which was needed as Brent Burns made it to 3-2 with 11:01 left.
Simply put, the only way they're allowing goals these days if if they put them in themselves. With limited zone/attack time that the Stars have demonstrated lately, offense will be at a premium tonight.
Jonas Hiller will be in net for the Ducks and enters the game with a salty 1.71 GAA and a .934 save percentage. He solved his vertigo issues over the summer quite effectively.
Here are a few observations on their last game against the Sharks from Anaheim Calling:
Too many power play opportunities and not enough scoring. The Ducks had multiple back to back opportunities in the first period and barely found the net. Even worse, they didn't find themselves with many more opportunities throughout the night. They've got to find a way to make those moments count.
Delay of game penalties are killer. Thankfully, the Ducks penalty kill has been outstanding.
Scary final moments in the game where the team was unable to clear the puck from the zone. It's definitely something the team has improved upon thus far, but I'm not really looking to have a heart-attack this early in the season, boys.
Some of that sounds fairly familiar.
The Stars will have their hands full tonight with a dangerous pair of scoring lines and last change belonging to Randy Carlyle. The Fiddler line will have to come up with some scoring chances against whichever line the Ducks choose to match on that front to gain an advantage. The Ribeiro line will see duty against the Perry/Getzlaf/Ryan line, and the fate of the Stars will rest there for much of the night.