Wednesday, February 1st, 2012, 9:30 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Anaheim Calling
The Dallas Stars return to action tonight after a seven day hiatus with an important tilt against the surging Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. The Stars snapped a five game losing streak before the break with a 1-0 win over these same Ducks thanks to a fluky goal by Alex Goligoski and the stellar efforts of Kari Lehtonen.
Dallas got some of the help they'll need down the stretch last night as Calgary, Phoenix, Minnesota and Colorado all lost in regulation. Now it's up to the Stars to take advantage of a big game in hand and put forth a more consistent effort against the Ducks this time.
Anaheim now has the Stars firmly in their sights, just seven points back at 45, where just three weeks ago they were thought to be dead in the water and all but certain to miss the playoffs. A win tonight would bring them within five with one head to head matchup remaining. Another good week and they'll enter the Minnesota/Colorado/Calgary/Phoenix/Dallas conversation in pursuit of the eight seed.
The Ducks started their post-break campaign last night with an authoritative 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes thanks to a second period hat trick from Andrew Cogliano in the span of just 6:51. Selanne added an empty netter to seal the win and the Coyotes had little stomach for the fight, managing just six third period shots.
The Stars and Ducks get going tonight at 9:00pm CST and please remember that this one is a Fox Sports Southwest PLUS game. See dallasstars.com or our game thread tonight for full channel information.
Much more after the jump...
"We approached these two days like a mini training camp," Gulutzan said Tuesday. "We did some video and we went over the some of the power play and PK stuff. Moving forward that's going to be important."
The Stars boast their entire, healthy lineup from training camp (sans one Krys Barch) for the first time since the morning of November 11th, and it is expected that Coach Glen Gulutzan will configure his lines and defensive pairings thusly...
That would make Adam Pardy and Mark Fistric the healthy scratches, presumably, along with either Toby Petersen or Jake Dowell from the fourth line.
Mike Ribeiro is still having some issues with his knee, and finished his first game back against the same Ducks eight days ago with some difficulty, though he did assist on the games only goal. Brenden Morrow has on-going issues with his back/neck. Neither is 100% healthy and this will just be the story line as the season wears on. Mike Ribeiro's ability, in particular, to weather the storm and finish the hectic schedule out will be a big key for what happens down the stretch for this team.
Kari Lehtonen will start in goal tonight, and the coaching staff left the door open to him starting in San Jose tomorrow when they declined to definitively name Richard Bachman the man for that job. The Stars are 0-7-1 on the second night of back to back situations this year.
Anaheim allowed Dallas just 16 total shots in their meeting just prior to the break. The Stars had a particularly slow start, getting out-shot 10-3 and out-chanced (by our count) 5-1 in the first period, though Dallas took a lead in the frame with one of the flukiest goals of the season.
The Ducks outplayed the Stars pretty badly in that contest and are still feeling revitalized by the changes Bruce Boudreau has brought to the organization. Corey Perry told media this weekend, when he was busy pulling things out of his pants, that Boudreau has made playing hockey fun for them again.
"I definitely think that everybody in here knows there's a lot possible," Jonas Hiller told the OC Register. "We've shown it in January and now we have to show it in February as well."
So they've not given up hope yet, and the Stars must do their part tonight to make the Ducks road as tough as possible, lest they get on another 8-1-1 tear like they ended January on.
Updating our stats from the last game preview and after Anaheim's 3-1 (plus an empty netter) win over the Coyotes last night: The Ducks have allowed 12 total goals in their last 9 games, and Jonas Hiller has stopped 211 of the last 221 shots he's faced, good for a .955 save percentage in that span.
The Cogliano hat track last night was all the offense the Ducks could muster against the Coyotes. If the Stars can keep Selanne (who scored a meaningless empty netter last night) and the Getlaf/Perry/Ryan line as quiet as Phoenix did then they'll like their chances.
Jonas Hiller started last night and played well. A short flight back to Anaheim and an entire All-Star break under his belt will probably mean that he'll start tonight as well.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau could see that there was something brewing even before that moment.
"I thought Cogs had an extra step tonight before that," Boudreau said. "And when he scored, I said to myself, ‘Boy, I thought he was going.’ I didn’t think he was going three goals. But I thought he was going."
Said Cogliano: "We were chipping pucks in and doing the right things. We had some good chemistry right in the first period and had some good chances right off the bat. That was huge for us. I think we gained confidence as the period went on. In the second, pretty much everything right happened for us."
Boudreau joked that "it might have been the ugliest hat trick I’ve ever seen" after Smith let Cogliano’s final two goals basically go through him, which got him the hook from Coyotes coach Dave Tippett.
The Ducks lineup tonight...