Last season the Dallas Stars' defining characteristic ended up being their inability to win on the road. At one point in the 2009-2010 campaign they lost 14 of 16 away from the American Airlines Center, killing their playoff chances. This year they set the franchise record for consecutive road wins at 8 on January 20th in Edmonton. After that they lost seven straight away from Dallas before winning four of five road contests to essentially save their season.
In a nut shell, this team is streaky on the road, and now their season dangles on this five game road trip and seven of their last nine overall away from home.
They can draw inspiration from a masterful 3-0-1 trip through the Pacific Division earlier this March (without Brad Richards and Nick Grossman) that kept them in the race despite a 2-2-3 home stand that followed. They'll need to collect points the rest of the way at a similarly (to the last road trip) outrageous pace to keep themselves close to Anaheim and Nashville starting tonight.
As hot as the Ducks were coming into Wednesday night's game, the Preds might be just as hot or hotter. They're 7-2-1 in their last 10, have won five straight and have 90 points already, all but assuring them a place at the table come April 13th. Their month has included authoritative wins, like a 3-0 shutout of the Canucks, and three straight come from behind wins against Detroit, Buffalo and Boston.
No team in the league has fewer regulation losses at home this year than Nashville does. They are very good in their building, impossible to beat when they get the lead, and their goaltender is a serious candidate for the Vezina and Hart trophies this year.
If this is a last (statistical) stand for Dallas, there couldn't be a harder place to do it. They are up against it in every way tonight on TXA 21 @ 7:00pm CDT.
Continued after the jump...
The most promising statistic for Dallas entering this game is the number of power play goals surrendered by Nashville recently, but further examination reveals that to be a fallacy. On one hand they've allowed five power play goals in their last four games, so there's opportunity there, right? On the other hand, two of them were 5-on-3's and that skews things quite a bit.
The next most promising thing is that by all accounts the Ducks should have been up by several goals after one in Nashville the other night, but incompetence at one end (a newly returned Hiller) and the brilliance at the other end (Pekka Rinne, of course) meant the Preds came out on top in a big way. That's all to say that scoring chances can be had against them.
In their last meeting Dallas allowed Nashville a lead after two periods and only a miraculous bounce on a goal that was ceremoniously awarded to Alex Goligoski saved the Stars in the end. It was lucky, and it was something that cannot be counted on again. In fact, Dallas' only two wins against the Predators this season have both been of the come-from-behind variety when trailing after two periods. Andrew Raycroft was the only reason the Stars pulled points out of their last trip to Nashville.
Raycroft won't be in net tonight, of course. Kari Lehtonen will make his 15th straight start in net for the Stars. Kari is 4-1 lifetime against the Preds with a .938 save percentage.
Dallas will be without Adam Burish, Nicklas Grossman, Brian Sutherby and Karlis Skrastins tonight. Or in other words, most of their penalty killing unit.
Interesting side note: Mike Ribeiro went 11-5 on faceoffs last time they faced the Predators, which was surely close a a season high for him. Steve Ott did even better with a 72% night on the dot.
The Tennessean speculates that Mike Fisher might be playing hurt.
The Preds won their last game AND got chewed out. That's never good for the next opponent.
Here's a nine minute video, all of which you can spend looking for Coach Trotz's neck...
And here's a sweet soccer goal scored by Suter in that last game against Anaheim.
May the sweet hockey gods grant the Stars some of that black Anaheim magic tonight, lest they be smothered by the stingy Preds led by their netminder. Just like Phoenix.
Needless to say, the season dangles by a thread. This is a must win. Will they finally dictate play in the first period or will they try to survive it and comeback once again?
Gird your loins, take your antacids, sacrifice a chicken in your back yard and put the kids to bed early. This one needs your complete and 100% total attention, and all the good thoughts that come with it.
This is it. Win tonight or go home.