The last time the Dallas Stars won a hockey game in Boston, MA Twitter had not yet been invented and it was way too soon for SNL to make "Katrina" jokes.
Granted, these teams don't play much. This only their fifth post-lockout meeting and their third trip to Boston in that time. The Bruins pasted the Stars 3-0 and 5-1 in each of the last two seasons and this is their first and only matchup this year.
Interestingly, the (Minnesota North) Stars and Bruins once played eight times in a single season: The 1978-1979 season that saw the North Stars and Cleveland Barons merge franchises due to economic instability and the Stars assumed their place in the Adams division, thus playing Boston eight times. (And going winless, 0-5-3)
Do you see how I am avoiding talking about where the Stars are coming into this game and the state of things?
Fine. For the Bruins audience then. The Dallas Stars have lost three of four entering play tonight by a combined score of 18-6. Three of their last four regulation losses have come at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, the latest of which was a 4-1 walloping at home on Monday night. The Stars allowed two power play goals, a short handed goal, and have probably made special teams a priority in tonight's contest.
Marc Crawford chose to look at the Stars failure on the PP Tuesday rather than emphasize the PK. "We had our opportunities tonight and we have to take responsibility for not jumping on the opportunities that we had," said Stars coach Crawford. "You have to look at what we can do better and we have to be better on our special teams. We had to be hungrier, we had to be more determined, we had to pay a bigger price to get to the net or take pucks to the net with a little more authority."
So the Stars turn back tonight to a well that has proven fruitful this season: The Eastern Conference. Dallas is 11-2-1 against the East this year while the Bruins are 1-3-1 against the Pacific Division and 2-4-2 (.375) against the West.
Continued after the jump...
Dallas has received some less than savory goaltending recently and will give Andrew Raycroft a chance to erase his latest outing against Calgary in which he allowed 7 goals on 19 shots.
Raycroft has been something of a specialist against Easter Conference teams this season. He has a 4-0-0 record with a .974 save percentage (SV%) and a 0.74 goals-against-average (GAA) against Eastern Conference opponents.
Kari Lehtonen is expected to get the start in Philadelphia on Saturday night.
Yesterday afternoon Stars' rookie center Travis Morin collapsed unexpectedly in the airport before boarding the charter flight to Boston. He was kept in Dallas and evaluated at the hospital but no problems were found and he could possible re-join the team in Philly on Saturday.
This means that with Jamie Benn, Tom Wandell and Toby Petersen all still out, Ray Sawada from the Texas Stars will join his teammate Aaron Gagnon in filling out the bottom of the forward group.
This is Dallas' first trip up North East since the opening two games of the season, both wins, which got the season started on a very positive note. They'll hope to regain a similar feeling in Boston and Philadelphia this weekend.
Boston leads their division, has 65 points just as the Stars do in 51 games, boasts a power play less 'power'ful than Dallas but a better PK.
They don't rely on their special to get the job done: They boast the league's best 5on5 GF/GA ratio at a gaudy (especially this late in the season) 1.45, meaning that they beat you straight up. No power play. They take the second most shots per game in the league at 34.0 but their aggressive style leads to a lot of pucks coming back the other way, evidently as they allow 33.8 SA/G, 28th in the NHL.
That's where Tim Thomas comes in.
If you watched the All-Star festivities you know what a cool guy TT is but he's also, pardon the expression, a complete bad ass in net.
Witness the end of Boston's game against Carolina on Tuesday night:
The good news is that the Bruins will let you near their net and you'll get the chances. The problem is solving Thomas and if the Stars work hard tonight then they'll be lucky enough to have that problem as well.
Remember, very early start time: 6:00pm CST