Saturday, December 31st, 2011, 7:00 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder
With the sting of a costly loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets still nagging, the Dallas Stars will try to right their ship against the National Hockey League's most formidable team in the Boston Bruins tonight. New Years Eve on Dallas ice has been a fun tradition for years and the Stars hope to get back to their winning ways on the holiday after losing to Vancouver last season.
Last season's loss to the Bruins kicked off a stretch of heavily injured play for Dallas that saw them go 1-6-1, eventually spelling the end of their playoff hopes. Three fights broke out in the first four seconds of that one, sending Krys Barch and Adam Burish each to the locker room (and hospital), and the more damaging injury came on the scoreboard when Boston would score two on their first two shots.
The loss would resonate for Stars fans as the beginning of the end for much of the summer, despite many of the season crippling injuries occurring on other dates. Settling a score with the Bruins physically is, according to the Stars, not high on the list of priorities. Dallas will have all they can handle from the league's best offense and defense without all the extracurriculars.
The Bruins enter on a seven game win-streak, including an overtime victory in Phoenix earlier this week. They've won nine of their last ten on the road, losing just once away from Boston in the last 63 days. Boston is 3-0 on the road against the Western Conference this season.
Game time is a little early tonight: 7:00pm CST. If you wish to avoid the rather spectacular congestion caused by "Big D NYE" following this evening's contest we suggest you do not exit the front (south) side of the building.
Much more on each team after the jump...
The only injury news to come out of Thursday night's loss was Brenden Morrow's knee problem. He was hit with a shot in the same knee that has been bothering him for some time. He was thought to be out and did not practice yesterday, yet the knee reacted better than they had hoped. He has not yet been ruled out for Saturday night's game.
"I would say knowing [Morrow], he's a probable for tomorrow but there's still some healing that has to get done before that's a go," said Stars' coach Glen Gulutzan.
He also mused how he might adjust his lines (should Morrow be unable to go) to the media yesterday, saying "It looks like it would either be (Burish) that we'd move up there or maybe we move (Wandell) up and move Jamie to the wing with Loui. Wandy had by his own admission a subpar game in St. Louis but last night, he was effective and did a lot of good things. If you give Wandy a chance to play up in the lineup, you never know."
How would you adjust the lineup if Brenden Morrow cannot go? Tomas Vincour is still on the mend and is not close.
The defense should remain the same with Stephane Robidas and Sheldon Souray still out. Goligoski and Philip Larsen have been getting first pairing type minutes, splitting with Grossman and Daley. Mark Fistric and Adam Pardy remain the third pair going into this one.
Kari Lehtonen reacted well to his first start back and will be tasked with keeping the score close in this one tonight.
Specialty teams will continue to be a big story for the Stars. They were unable to capitalize on the man advantage against Columbus (0/3), and now face one of the best special teams club in the NHL. They broke their streak of allowing two power play goals a game at four on Thursday, stopping the Blue Jackets twice on the power play.
Boston enters with quite the tour de force. They lead the league as the only team with a better than .700 points percentage (.721). They lead the league in wins (24). They lead the league in goal scoring (3.47 goals per game). They lead the league in 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio (1.89). They lead the league in faceoff percentage (55.6%). They very nearly lead the league in penalty killing at 89%, and their power play is a very good one at 19.4%.
They are, in short, a very deserving defending Stanley Cup Champion and they bring with them a plethora of weapons in all phases and aspects of the game. The Stars go from playing the worst (statistically) team in the league, having lost 4-1 to Columbus, to now the absolute best.
They're 11-3-0 on the road. They've won eight of their last ten. They've won seven in a row. They're 3-1 in shootouts. They have the best goal differential in the league at +57. The next closest team is VAN at +36. The Bruins have scored very nearly twice as many goals as their opponents this year.
They've given up the fewest goals in the league (by far) at just 64. That's 1.85 ga/g, and they're the only team with a number under two. I swear that if I find a single negative thing to write about this team, I will. It doesn't look promising.
While the Stars continue to deal with a copious number of injuries, the Bruins come in completely healthy, further aiding their quest to repeat as champions.
Their lineup as of late has resembled something like this:
That fourth line reads like a big pile of unfinished business in Dallas. Paille was the gentleman who took a rather ill-conceived run at Ray Sawada last year. Shawn Thornton agitated the Stars with the Ducks previously, and Greg Campbell suffered some kind of perceived injustice via Steve Ott a number of years ago that, according to a recent radio interview, still rankles Jack Edwards: A veteran of Little League World Series and Sumo Wrestling broadcasts. [Wikipedia]
Expect Tim Thomas in goal, but Tuukka Rask is playing (better than) starter caliber hockey as well, so he could be an option again for them.