Game 24: Dallas Stars @ Colorado Avalanche
Monday, November 28th, 2011, 8:00 PM CST
Local TV, Radio: FS SW HD, KTCK 1310 The Ticket
Opponent SB Nation Blog: Mile High Hockey
Dallas rolls into this one a team resembling the strong Stars of just three weeks ago, but not nearly as much as they'd like. Kari Lehtonen has been felled by a groin injury and he joins Brenden Morrow, Alex Goligoski, Adam Burish, and Trevor Daley on the shelf. Vernon Fiddler's status is still up in the air for this one as well.
Tonight wraps up a stretch of seven games in eleven days for Dallas. They enter 2-6-1 in their last nine and looking forward to a two day break following this one and a four day break in early December just around the corner.
The Stars lost their second meeting with Colorado 3-0 just ten days ago. The young Avalanche peppered the Stars net with 44 shots and Lehtonen saved all but two of them before they added an empty netter. Dallas won't have that luxury tonight, of course, as Andrew Raycroft will get this, and presumably many more starts for Stars.
"He's going to be the guy Monday for sure and if he has to carry the ball for a week, I have no problems having him do that and I don't think he does, either," said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.
Raycroft added that he feels more comfortable knowing he's the starter, saying it allows him to get into a rhythm. He hasn't earned a win since January of this year, including an 0-5-0 start this season and a 3.50 GAA and a .899 save percentage. Colorado victimized Raycroft at Pepsi Center last year on November 6th to the tune of a 5-0 defeat, though he did stop 40 of 45 in the loss.
His numbers could be better, he'd tell you, but the oft-overlooked theme of Raycroft's losses this year is the severe lack of offensive support he's getting at the other end of the ice...
In Raycroft's five games (four starts + the last game in Phoenix) the Stars have scored 2, 0, 2, 1, and 0 goals. Five games. Five goals. It doesn't matter who you're goaltender is, you're probably not going to do much better than 0-5-0 scoring a goal a game in front of a guy.
Dallas entered their last game in Denver with a bit of a scoring drought, and left with it intact and grown to a full 170+ minutes. Tonight they enter having thankfully only been shutout in their last game (standards are falling around here...) but the scoring woes go deeper than that. Eric Nystrom potted two against Toronto on Friday night and Radek Dvorak got one.
The Jamie Benn line has not scored in a full two games, nor has the Mike Ribeiro line, and the power play enters with a seven game scoreless streak. The offense may not be struggling quite as badly as it was a week ago, but it's on life support to say the least. The losses of Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley on the back end are not helping the Stars in transition either, not to mention the power play.
Vernon Fiddler was listed by Stars PR as "unlikely" for this game as of 6:00pm last night. Mike Heika says he could be available. We'll wait and see. The lineup could look something like this...
Dowell-Petersen-Barch <-- Expect Barch to play. Wandell could be in there instead of one of the others.
On defense the Robidas/Souray pairing will likely stay intact. From there things get interesting. Fistric/Larsen, Grossman/Pardy. Lack of mobility, puck poise and offensive skill are an issue here with Daley and Goligoski out.
Colorado has been alternating wins and losses of late, and continue an eight game home stand looking to win consecutive games in over a month. They're 3-8-1 in November, looking to beat the Stars for the second time in three tries this month.
They'll be without Erik Johnson and Peter Mueller for sure. Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog both missed practice on Sunday but will play tonight, so the Stars can't get any breaks there matching injuries for injuries.
The big talk on the Avalanche side of things is 20 year old rookie Stefan Elliott, who made his NHL debut on Saturday. He scored the game winning goal in the third period after the Avs trailed Edmonton 2-1 heading into the final frame and was said to be "superb" at both ends of the ice. He makes the third Colorado player from the 2009 draft impressing at the NHL level. (Duchene, O'Reilly, Elliott).
Colorado has produced 40 and 45 shots on goal against Dallas in two games this year, with Lehtonen in net for both. If the Stars want to win this game they're going to have to limit that number in front of Raycroft, who doesn't handle the "shooting gallery" flurries as well as Kari does. Staying out of the box will be key, as usual.
These are the lines Colorado used in their last outing...
Though J.S. Giguere shutout the Stars in Denver recently the Avs will go with Semyon Varlamov in net tonight.