Saturday, January 14th, 2011, 2:00 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: Mile High Hockey
Dallas saw their two game win streak snapped in Anaheim on Tuesday night but managed to get back on the winning track in a crazy game at Staples Center Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings. This afternoon they face yet another team with whom they're directly battling for playoff positioning in the young Colorado Avalanche.
The Stars will continue to be without their top play maker in Mike Ribeiro for the short term. Ribeiro took a knee on knee hit in last Saturday afternoon's game against the Oilers and partially tore his MCL. "Ribs is still sore. He's got a significant injury there," said Glen Gulutzan Friday. "He hasn't even started riding the bike yet so he'll be at least another few more days."
Dallas managed four goals against the Kings Thursday night despite Ribeiro's absence, including two from linemate Loui Eriksson, who earlier in the day was passed over for the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.
The Avalanche enter having lost three straight, including two in a row to the Nashville Predators. Colorado led 2-0 12 minutes in to the first period on Thursday night but allowed three unanswered, taking the loss in overtime.
"Instead of us forcing the issue and playing more in their face we started to sit back a little bit, and that's what happens when you play on your heels," said Avs coach Joe Sacco after the defeat.
This is, curiously enough, the two teams fourth and final meeting of the season with the Stars holding a 2-1 edge in the series thus far. Contrast that with other teams in the Northwest Division against which the Stars have still yet to play a single game: Calgary, Minnesota and Vancouver.
Much more on each team after the jump...
Ribeiro's continued absence means the Stars continued reliance on Tom Wandell for a balanced offensive attack, lest Jamie Benn get too worn down trying to do it all.
"Before Ribs went down he was playing eight or nine minutes a night and he was playing very well," said Gulutzan Friday. "Now the stakes have gotten higher for Tommy. It's a really good chance for him to showcase himself. With Ribs out we'll see where he can take it."
He added that perhaps doubling his minutes in one game made him tired in Anaheim but that he looked stronger in Los Angeles Thursday night. Wandell had the primary assist on Loui Eriksson's even strength goal that night and was on the ice for the power play goal that tied it late with Eriksson.
Los Angeles' three power play goals Thursday broke a six game kill streak for the Stars. The last time they had such a string broken they gave up multiple power play goals in four consecutive games. They'll try to limit it to one bad game and start a new streak today. The Avs have scored just two power play goals in their last eight games.
Glen Gulutzan declined to name a starting netminder on Friday, though it will probably be Lehtonen. Kari was involved in a collision late in the game Thursday night and remarked that his rear-end would likely be bruised the next day, but he is fine. With three games in four nights Richard Bachman is likely to see action soon.
The defensive pairings are adjusted Thursday and looked like this for most of the game, a look they had earlier in the season:
Denver will once again be without budding star Matt Duchene. He suffered a knee injury on December 29th against the Phoenix Coyotes and has been on the shelf ever since, scheduled to be out for approximately four weeks. Stars fans might recall Duchene's hat trick in Dallas on November 4th - A four point night for him in all and a dominant performance.
Even without him the Avs have gone 3-2-1. They ripped off nine victories in ten games recently, roaring back into playoff contention and now sit just a single point back of Dallas, though they've played three games more. It's another "4 point game" for the Stars, just like against Los Angeles on Thursday.
Colorado is 4-1-1 in their last six road games and are 10-9-2 away from Pepsi Center overall this year. They've put themselves in a good spot going forward by virtue of often just surviving until the shootout, where they are an incredible 7-0. They have the third least ROW (tie breakers) wins in the Conference at 15. They've been to overtime (or more) 12 times already this season.
The Avalanche got Peter Mueller back from injury on Thursday (he of Phoenix Coyote fame) and their young, talented lineup will resemble something like this:
McLeod-Van der Gulik-Yip
20 year old defenseman Stefan Elliott has been struggling a little bit recently and the Avs defense pairings were shuffled a little earlier in the week. Read more here at the Denver Post.
The Avs continue to use both Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere in net. Giguere was good by most accounts in the loss to Nashville Thursday so we'll see if they go with him again.