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Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ Colorado Avalanche (8:00pm CST)

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Game 18:  Dallas Stars @ Colorado Avalanche

Friday, November 18th, 2011, 8:00 PM CST
 Pepsi Center

Local TV, Radio: FS SW HD, KTCK 1310 The Ticket

Opponent Blog: Mile High Hockey

The Dallas Stars begin Friday, November 18th looking to get back on track in more ways than one. As this game preview is being published at 9am CST, a bankruptcy court confirmation hearing is underway in Delaware, and Tom Gaglardi is expected to officially, really and truly, be the new owner of this franchise in very, very short order.

That makes anything else that happens today somewhat moot, as the day should already be a huge win for everyone that calls themselves a Stars fan. Five years from now whatever happened with the Colorado Avalanche won't matter much, but Tom Gaglardi and the final Hicks-ectomy will.

On the ice the team is looking for a new day as well, having lost three straight in regulation and collecting no new points in 10 days. The Predators, Kings and Wild pulled ahead of the Stars in that department last night, and the Blues' victory brings them within a single point along with the Coyotes. As usual in the West, there is no breathing room.

These teams met exactly two weeks ago and the result was in the Stars favor, but the deeper metrics and indications of what's to come were decidedly not. The Avs out-chanced the Stars 20-14 including 15-9 at even strength, and out-shot Dallas by a margin of 40-29. The Stars survived on a couple of 'more-than-fortunate' goals, and got the victory despite allowing Colorado to dictate a style of play the Stars vowed to avoid that day at morning skate.

Being out-possessed and out-shot has been the norm for the Stars for the most part since that night and turning that trend around against a speedy, talented Avalanche team will be a tall, tall order tonight when Joe Sacco gets last change: A luxury he did not have in scoring six in Dallas two weeks ago.

Tune in to FS SW at 8:00pm tonight for all the fun with Ralph and Razor and check in with us here for a fun Friday night gameday thread.

A closer look at each team after the jump...

The Stars:

In case you missed the big news yesterday, things are changing for the top six forward group.

Steve Ott's return and the struggles of the team over the last three games to generate any kind of offensive attack, to say nothing of goals, has prompted head coach Glen Gulutzan to split up Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson while keeping Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro together. Ott will skate with Michael Ryder and Jamie Benn while Loui Eriksson will man the right side with Ribeiro and Morrow.

The third line is expected to be kept intact as Fiddler/Dvorak/Nystrom and though Krys Barch will fight through his slight ankle tweak, we expect we'll see Jake Dowell, Toby Petersen and Tom Wandell on the fourth line tonight.

Philip Larsen will watch his third game since being recalled from Cedar Park following the injury to Alex Goligoski. Gulutzan said there is a chance that Larsen will see time tomorrow night at home when the Sharks come to the AAC.

Kari Lehtonen will start in net tonight and the plan is for Andrew Raycroft (0-3-0) to play his fourth back to back game tomorrow, though it would be hist first of the year at home. Gulutzan said that plan was not written in stone as of Thursday morning.

The Stars catch the Sharks tomorrow, who themselves will not be on a back to back, but rather in Dallas waiting for the Stars to return.

The Avalanche:

As mentioned above, the Avs come into this game just as hungry for an effort to be proud of and some results to help stop the bleeding in the standings. These teams entered their first matchup as two of the best in the West, far and away, but since have seen a large reversal of fortunes.

Colorado has now lost nine of their last eleven games overall (2-8-1) and have dropped five of six since leaving Dallas two weeks ago. They're scoring just 2.16 goals per game in those six and allowing 3.5, though they did out-shoot and out-chance the Wild last night, as they did to Dallas (quite badly) in that wild 7-6 game.

They'll play a disciplined game. In the frustration of getting shutout on the road last night they took only one minor penalty that resulted in a power play for the Minnesota Wild, meaning the Stars could once again be facing a situation where the opposition spends much more time on the power play than they do. It's an on-going theme this season and Dallas will just have to deal with it until things turn around a little. They need to earn their way back in that respect by possessing the puck and playing smart.

Don't take the Avalanche's struggles at home lightly. They out-shoot teams and out-chance them and they know it. They plan to break out of the funk there with this eight game home stand. From the Denver Post...

...Hejduk, the Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the league's top goal scorer in 2003, feels like a lot of other Avalanche personnel about his team's 2-6-1 home record: perplexed.

If the Avs don't figure things out at the Pepsi Center for the long homestand, Hejduk said, then things really will turn dark.

"You have no chance if you don't win most of your home games," he said. "I don't know what it is. We outshoot and outchance teams, but we've found a way to lose. We must do well on that homestand. We can't keep losing games at home — because we've shown we can win games on the road. There is no reason why we shouldn't win games on our home ice too." [Denver Post]

And while the Stars are losing bodies, the Avs are getting them back in the form of Brandon Yip, who played his first game of the season last night in Minnesota.