Saturday, February 18th, 2012, 7:00 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Five For Howling
The Stars kept themselves in the conversation Thursday night with an important two points earned in a game with Calgary Flames (a 3-2 OT win), but things reset to desperate again tonight as they take on the Phoenix Coyotes, a team that is directly in front of them in the standings.
Dallas counts a 4-1 loss to these same Coyotes at home just 11 days ago as one of the most disappointing of the year. They have a chance to avenge that perceived poor effort with a big two points tonight, but face a Phoenix team that's 6-0-1 in the month of February.
The Coyotes faced the Kings Thursday night and finally passed them in the standings with a 1-0 shutout. Phoenix now sits technically 7th in the conference, though tied with the Kings for points. The Stars were technically passed by the Avalanche last night, but have two games in hand.
The Stars will have to face Mike Smith in goal, who comes into this one with two straight shutouts and six wins in a row. His shutout streak sits at 138:49. The only other time he had consecutive shutouts was in 2007 with the Dallas Stars.
According to Stars PR, The Stars and Coyotes are even in the season series with a 2-2-0 record. Six of the last eight games between these two teams have been one-goal affairs with four of those games going to overtime or the shootout. Dallas is looking to win their first game in regulation in Glendale since March 1, 2011 (3-2 W).
More on each team after the jump... And don't forget to join us at Frankie's in Lewisville tonight for the watch party...
Dallas is being rocked once again, for the umpteenth time this year, with massive roster changes caused by injury, and now by trades. Jamie Benn's absence leaves a gaping hole in the heart of the forward group and Nicklas Grossman's departure means the penalty kill unit is adversely affected and the defensive pairings are changed. Couple it with Brenden Morrow and Sheldon Souray's continued absences from the lineup and the Stars have real issues to deal with.
They've called up forward Ryan Garbutt from the Texas Stars to occupy a roster spot and be a healthy scratch in a back to back situation, providing depth. Gulutzan, however, was not so quick to say that he wouldn't play.
"I think there's certainly a possibility he gets in, but we'll make that decision tonight," said Gulutzan Friday morning.
If he were to get in it would almost certainly be at Toby Petersen's expense. The fourth line of Wandell, Burish and Dowell played well Thursday night and each figures to see an increase in ice time with the Stars becoming more of a four-line time in Benn's absence.
With no practice Friday it's impossible to say what they'll do with the lines. Steve Ott noted that he seemed to finish the game on a line with Wandell and Burish, so that could be a unit tomorrow. Gulutzan could also split up Ribeiro, Eriksson and Ryder to spread the talent around a bit more. Only time will tell, and Dave Tippett will have the luxury of last change against whatever they decide.
Look for Adam Pardy to be paired with Philip Larsen once again.
"I know consistency is the key right now. Anyone can have one good game. Anyone can do that," Pardy told media Thursday. "It's just a matter of making sure that Saturday night that I bring the same effort and the same composure,
Kari Lehtonen will start in net for Dallas. The last time he started in Phoenix he sustained that groin injury in a 3-0 Stars loss.
How would you configure the lines in Benn's absence tonight and tomorrow (if not more)?
Phoenix has managed just a single goal in each of their last two games, though they collected points in each. A single goal is enough to beat the LA Kings these days and that's exactly what they did. On the road, no less. They've scored just seven over their last four games overall.
Their identity is their defense and goaltending, and they are riding it purposefully and impressively (really, really impressively) right into the playoffs. They have allowed 0, 1, 0, 1, 1, and 1 goals against in their last six games. What else is there to say? That's how you get it done. That's against good teams like the Canucks, Kings, Blackhawks, Flames and Red Wings.
Phoenix is rising to the occasion beautifully, as Dave Tippett teams in Phoenix have done down the stretch ever year since he's taken over.
Meanwhile off the ice, the never ending sale of the Coyotes is thought to be reaching some kind of home stretch as the 2011-2012 season winds to a close. It seems obvious the people involved in the story that the league will not operate the team for another season. It sounds like crying wolf at this point, but they say that things will go one way or the other this year. Soon.
"We all would like to get a direction of where this thing is going," Tippett told the Republic. "If it's a sale that's imminent or the NHL decides its going to go in another direction, just give us a solution to what we're dealing with here. But there's not one guy in our room who isn't dedicated to keeping this thing here and making it work here. Hopefully that's the direction we get to go."
The Coyotes lineup:
Rostislav Klesla is questionable with an upper body injury after taking a hard hit in Los Angeles on Thursday night. Taylor Pyatt has some kind of nebulous upper body injury (sound like a concussion) that might keep him out of this game as well.