Thursday, February 2nd, 2012, 9:30 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Fear The Fin
[UPDATE] Naturally, the second one hits "Post", something breaks. Antti Niemi will not play tonight due to a minor injury suffered in practice. Backup Thomas Greiss will get the start. [/UPDATE]
Fresh off a 6-2 demolishing of the Anaheim Ducks last night, the Stars are hoping to show consistently that a healthy Dallas hockey team is a playoff quality hockey team.
Jamie Benn's return to the Stars lineup did not disappoint as his three point night and highlight reel goal led the Stars to a much needed unclogging of the offensive pipes, so to speak.
"We've had trouble scoring goals lately, but we've got all our guys back and healthy," said Stephane Robidas. "That makes a big difference. We wanted to come out strong after the break, and we've got to keep moving forward like this if we want to make the playoffs."
The Sharks came out their break strong as well, hammering the Blue Jackets 6-0 with 43 shots and a power play goal. Antti Niemi recorded the shutout. San Jose sits atop the Pacific Division, though only two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, who stole a point from those same Blue Jackets last night in dramatic fashion.
Unlike the Kings and Ducks, against whom the Stars have already played five times each, Dallas has four remaining contests with the tough Sharks down the stretch. San Jose won both meetings in convincing fashion, 4-1 and 5-2.
Conquering the Sharks is one thing, but the Stars face an even bigger demon tonight as that "0-7-1 on the second night of back to backs" stat rears its ugly head again. Is this the night the Stars finally break through and get one on the backside of the set?
More on each team after the jump...
Expect the Stars to keep these same lines tonight after the much needed, refreshing offensive outburst of Wednesday, though Toby Petersen could play on the 4th line because they do like to keep those pieces moving down there. There have been, knock on wood, no reports of potential injuries from last night's contest.
Grossman-Daley - Fistric?
Last night Nick Grossman game to the arena but was unable to go as he battles the flu. Mark Fistric drew in and played with Trevor Daley and shouldered a 20 minute load complete with 4:20 of PK time and 6 hits recorded, availing himself quite well. Grossman could come back in tonight depending on how he's feeling.
Glen Gulutzan made it know after the Ducks game that he would go with Richard Bachman tonight. Bachman has seen action at the Shark Tank previously, though he did not start, stopping all 11 shots he saw in relief of Andrew Raycroft on December 8th in what was already heading toward a 5-2 loss.
From Stars PR: "Dallas is looking to snap a four-game losing skid against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. In those four games, the Stars have been outscored 6-21, allowing San Jose at least four goals in each contest. Dallas has never lost five-in-a-row to the Sharks."
The Stars were almost completely healthy when last these teams played at HP Pavilion. Kari Lehtonen was out, however, and it was Andrew Raycroft's scrambling that got the Stars in trouble early, falling behind 2-0 quickly.
The Clowe/Thornton line was matched up directly with the Benn line (which that night was Benn, Eriksson, Ryder), and they victimized that trio to the tune of a collective -7 rating. The Fiddler line was also scored on twice that night.
San Jose may have dominated the lowly Blue Jackets on Tuesday night but they came in to the All-Star break in much the same way as the Stars did: Struggling to score goals. The Sharks managed just seven total tallies in their five games leading up to the break, dropping four of six accordingly.
They've killed 18 of their last 19 short handed situations and have allowed their opponent just a single power play opportunity in three straight games. In a game against the Flames on the 17th they surrendered no power play opportunities. Look for a disciplined group tonight.
That's all part of a larger picture for the Sharks, which is really sound, defensive hockey. They've given up just 110 goals on the year thus far - 2.23 a game, good for fifth in the NHL.
Expect Antti Niemi to get the start tonight. He's beaten the Stars twice already this year and is 6-2-0 against Dallas in his career with a 2.24 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
Richard Bachman will have to deal with these guys tonight, and they had a plan for Steve Mason on Tuesday that they executed quite well. From Fear The Fin:
Many of the breaks that the Sharks got were off rebounds from Mason, and would add their fourth goal of the game as the result of another. It's something that the Sharks identified about Mason pre game, and executed to perfection.
"We wanted to create rebounds," stated McLellan, "we wanted to get to the blue paint and score some ugly goals. We were lucky enough to do that."
According to the Mercury News, "RW Marty Havlat (hamstring), D Jason Demers (lower body) and RW Tommy Wingels (upper body) are out. C Ryane Clowe (face) is questionable."
Clowe would be a big piece for them if he's able to return, and people always do like to use the Stars for a big return, for some reason.
The Sharks lineup: