Tuesday, November 8th, 2011, 6:00 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Japers' Rink
The Washington Capitals are accustomed to being a "measuring stick"-type opponent, and have been for years now. They were exactly that for a Stars team that had won five in a row in early December last season. This year, however, another early matchup could turn out to be a measuring-stick game for both when arguably the best teams from each Conference meet up at Verizon Center tonight. (The Penguins might have something to say about that, but we'll get there on Friday...)
Coming off five and seven goal performances against Carolina and Colorado, the Stars hope to keep it flowing tonight to keep up with the high flying Capitals who have scored 26 goals in six home games (4.33 per) while allowing just 14 (2.33 per), but would probably prefer to avoid the kind of track meet Joe Sacco's bunch got them caught up in last Friday.
These teams haven't met at Verizon Center since March 8th, 2010 when Marty Turco faced 52 shots of goal but ultimately outlasted in the Caps in the shootout for a 4-3 win. Their last visit to the nations capital was November 30th, 2006 in a 4-3 loss.
According to Stars PR, The Stars have only lost one game in regulation over their past 19 contests against Washington (14-1-4 record, span of over 15 years).
A closer look at both teams after the jump...
After a fun day of practice and team building the Stars should roll with what they've had for the last two games with only minor tweaks on the fringe. Jake Dowell will probably come back in on the fourth line and then it's anyone's guess who comes out, as Petersen, Wandell and Barch have all spent time as healthy scratches this season.
Mark Fistric continues to impress, but it's expected he'll come out and Adam Pardy goes back in. I don't know what the advanced stats on Fistric say but he's brought some good physicality and that's a useful tool on the road that they could miss. The Capitals are a team that you want to be especially "hard to play against."
The dynamic trio of Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder will continue, no doubt, but what of their help?
The Mike Ribeiro line has not generated an even strength goal in four games, while Vernon Fiddler and Eric Nystrom have been drawing penalties and contributing in big ways against Colorado and Carolina in recent contests. The Benn line, while incredible of late, will not continue on this pace. The Morrow/Ribeiro combination will have to contribute more in the coming games in Dallas' success is to continue.
Kari Lehtonen will start tonight. Andrew Raycroft will get either Friday or Saturday. We'll talk more about that coming up this week.
There's more history here between these teams than meets the eye. Dallas Coach Glen Gulutzan coached the Texas Stars two season ago against the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup Finals. The Hershey Bears are the Washington Capitals' AHL affiliate, and if you were following that post-season closely like we (and Gully) were then you know many of those villains now play for the big club. Karl Alzner, Michal Neuvirth, John Carlson, Cody Eakin, and Mathieu Perreault were on that roster that took down Texas in six games after falling behind 2-0. Jamie Benn was there as well, of course.
The news for Washington these days, when their best-player-in-the-world isn't getting benched in the final seconds and calling his coach a ___ ____, is ailing defenseman Mike Green, who could make his return tonight at Verizon Center. He injured his right ankle on October 22nd.
Head Coach Bruce Boudreau gave the Washington Post this confusing quote on the subject. "We don't want to rush him. We're not going to rush him either," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Everything would have to be perfect."
The Capitals are a perfect 6-0 at home (best in the league), have a +15 goal differential (best in the league) and an awesome 1.41 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio (best in the league). They boast the league's 4th best power play, and they've been shorthanded only 42 times this year, also good for 4th best in the league. So as usual, special teams will play a huge part on the road. This is a huge test for the Stars, who have not seen this caliber of opponent yet. **stats all compiled before Monday nights games, so don't shoot me if something changed.
Lines could resemble something like this (or at least they have recently)...