23 weeks ago the Dallas Stars had a chance, with a single win in Minnesota against the Wild, to make the post season for the first time in three years and become the fifth Pacific Division team in the tournament. As you may recall, they did not take advantage of the opportunity.
164 days later a third of the roster has been overturned, a new coaching staff has been hired, a new system is being installed, and the sale of the team is on the cusp of completion. It was an eventful off-season. One that, after a time, everyone hopes to look back on and say that it was a very important off-season.
Tonight the off-season finally gets put to bed, however. Tonight the on-ice quest to right the wrongs of February, March and April begins.
Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan has said that tonight is about "the spine" of his system, which he calls the defensive zone coverage, their tracking, and the forecheck. As with most early NHL preseason games, it will also be about giving some of the youth a chance to shine before being sent back to their respective camps.
Montreal is a fun place to play and the atmosphere should be excellent with Ralph and Razor setting the scene on the radio tonight. Please remember that we will be gathering here for a Gameday Thread and some good hockey camaraderie, so wolf down your dinner and get to the computer by 6:30 for our first Dallas Stars action of the year.
Tonight's lineup and more after the jump...
The exact lineup is unclear at this point but ESPN Dallas reported the players on the ice this morning were as follows:
Several of the younger players, including Brett Ritchie and Alex Theriau are already on their way back to juniors so the roster of 49 will start getting trimmed fairly quickly.
Tonight's treat, confirmed by the razor boy, looks like seeing how Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro do with new playmate Michael Ryder and his right handed shot.
The Toby Petersen and Tom Wandell grouping could provide some insight into what is the making of the Stars fourth line. After hearing Ralph Strangis refer to Radek Dvorak as a third line player for this team yesterday, one would think that Fiddler, Burish and Dvorak is the intended opening night third line (talk about hard to play against) and that Petersen and Wandell will be joined on the fourth line by a rotating combination of Krys Barch, Jake Dowell and Eric Godard.
On the back end, that Goligoski and Larsen pairing knows how to move the puck a little and the Grossman and Pardy group has enough size that you might be able to see them through your radio. Brenden Dillon should see his first action in an NHL building against the big boys, which saddens me, because I wanted to see him on Thursday in Dallas and I hope he plays then as well.
For you Jamie Benn lovers, this all presumably means that he will take the ice in Dallas on Thursday with Loui Eriksson and Steve Ott.
The guess here is that both Raycroft and Beskorowany see action in goal. Jack Campbell on American Airlines Center ice on Thursday? Maybe? Cross your fingers...
Per a tweet from the teams official twitter account, the forward lines are (or if you like, "lignes pour ce soir")
That Cole/Cammalleri/Plekanec trio should be pretty salty and it will be interesting to see which Stars defensive pairing gets to deal with them for the majority of the night.
Montreal, like Dallas, has most of it's NHL lineup solidified and there are very few, if any, roster spots open for competition. They are still reportedly pondering their seventh defenseman and a familiar face is among the names being discussed...
Two of the biggest names acquired by the Canadiens (and I use that term as lightly as possible) were Brian Willsie and Jeff Woywitka.
Both players have NHL experience and cannot be referred to as prospects. That bodes well for them as they fight for a roster spot. The press box can be used as a punishment, and it can be used as a place for injured players but mostly it is a place for placeholders to watch the game until they are needed because of an injury.
This logic means that you don't necessarily want a rookie or young player spending time not playing when they could be developing either on the ice in the NHL or AHL.
Willsie has two 10-goal NHL seasons to his credit and 6'1, 202 can add physicality to the mix. Woywitka was a former 1st round pick and bounced around the league and will understand his role as "next-man-up" if injuries occur on the Montreal blue line (and history suggests, they will occur). [The Hockey Writers.com]
Tonight's game will be broadcast on RDS in Canada, and as such there is a very slight possibility that some may happen upon an internet stream of the video that may not be totally on the "up and up." We won't be assisting in this capacity. I am just merely pointing it out.