If the Dallas Stars don't improve their penalty kill against the Canucks this time, they will suffer their third loss in as many tries against the league's top team this season.
There's no need to ceremoniously introduce the season series, paint a pretty word-picture, or engage in the usual routine setup. Special teams has been the crux of the matter for the Stars where Vancouver is concerned this year so let's just cut straight to the chase. The 4-1 and 7-1 losses need no little exposition beyond it: The Stars must win the special teams battle if they're to compete with this team.
The league's best PP unit went 3 for 6 on New Years Eve in Dallas and 3 for 6 eight days ago in Vancouver. Three of the six have come in the first period. The Canucks are 21-1-1 when leading after the first period as they've done in both meetings with the Stars. (It may also be worth noting that the Canucks have not won this season when trailing after one period. 0-4-4. It may not.)
As I write this late on Monday night, winter weather in the form of some freezing rain that follows rain-rain is expected in much of the metroplex with temperatures plunging into the low 20's, creating icy road conditions. The Stars have made it clear that whatever happens the show will go on, so please be careful traveling to the AAC should you choose to do so.
The task at hand is that much hard tonight because the Stars will be without Jamie Benn and Tom Wandell thanks to injuries inflicted by these same Canucks...
Continued after the jump...
I went back tonight and watched the Edler hit on Benn. Yes, it was a hit. It had been suggested that the two did not see each other but Benn was the only one unaware and it surprised him. Both men fell down, both popped back up and played the rest of the shift with seemingly no problem but both now find themselves out of this game because of it.
As such the Stars find themselves shuffling the bottom half of their roster quite a bit and missing Benn's minutes on the PP and PK. With Toby Petersen still out with a deep bone bruise Marc Crawford finds his PK lacking the combinations that served him so well in December.
Lines for the Edmonton game were as follows and should be close to this tonight as well:
Travis Morin will play in his 2nd career NHL game and find the task a bit harder than the lowly Oilers that were in here last week.
Dallas might get Jeff Woywitka (shoulder) back in the lineup. They had been operating with only six health d-men. That means Mark Fistric or Matt Niskanen could come out tonight if #44 is ready to get back in.
Kari Lehtonen will be in net seeking a better performance (and better support) than last Monday night.
Vancouver, as we mentioned above, will be without Alex Edler tonight. It was he who hit Jamie Benn at center ice immediately following the 4th Canuck goal, knocking Benn out for what will be "weeks" when it's all said and done, but evidently he took himself out of the game for even longer. Much longer.
Edler, the Canucks leader in TOI this season at over 24 minutes/game, had back surgery Monday and is expected to be out 10-12 weeks. Vancouver faithful hope he can return for the playoff run. In the mean time his placement on IR affords them cap space to bring back some of their other injured. (Remember cap space problems? Neither do we...) Edler was also the Canucks fourth leading scorer with 32 points.
Meanwhile their depth injures force them to bring a highly touted prospect into the fold Tuesday night to center their fourth line: Cody Hodgson. We'll let the Vancouver Sun tell you about him...
Hodgson is expected to centre the Canucks’ fourth-line when the Western Conference leaders take on the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center Tuesday night.
Go ahead, read that last part again. We know you’ve been waiting a while.
Just not as long as the Vancouver Canucks top prospect and the 10th overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft.
"I’m excited for him, he’s been working very hard for a very long time, so it’s great to see him finally get his chance," said Titanic, who coached first-rounders Hodgson, Stamkos and Del Zotto from ages 8-15 with the Waxers. "We thought it would have happened by now, but hopefully he’s got all his bad luck out of the way early. He’s had to go through a lot."
When you find yourself wondering Tuesday night why the Stars never seem to have the puck, look to the faceoffs.Vancouver won a staggering 62% of draws last week. Dallas will need to do better than 38% to compete.
Please join us for out GDT tonight, we look forward to seeing everyone there!