Monday, March 26th, 2012, 8:00 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Matchsticks and Gasoline
The Stars pushed the Calgary Flames to the brink Saturday afternoon with a 4-1 win at American Airlines Center that wasn't always pretty for the home team, but Kari Lehtonen locked things down in his end and Jamie Benn scored twice to keep the Stars in a very tenuous Pacific Division lead.
The two meet again tonight for the second half of a "home and home" with everything on the line as the Stars embark on a four-game road trip that will all but decide their season. Dallas is attempting to sweep the Flames for the first time since the 2003-2004 season.
The Stars withstood a furious, desperate effort from the Flames that spanned from about the 10 minute mark of the first period to the final minutes of the third, and they can expect more of the same tonight as Calgary really and truly is on their last gasp now.
"We realize out of six games, we most likely are going to have to win them all," said Jarome Iginla Saturday after the loss.
Saturday's game was surprisingly chippy for two teams with no margin for error, and thus presumably wanting to stay out of the penalty box. Jamie Benn thinks the desperate nature of the circumstances and the home and home setting will provide another playoff-like feel tonight.
"I think the emotions and the playoff atmosphere is going to carry over," Benn said. "There are two big points on the line, and both teams are pushing for a playoff spot. I think it's going to be a hard-fought game, and we're looking forward to it."
Last night the Phoenix Coyotes suffered a 4-0 defeat at home to NHL-best St. Louis, and they remain tied with the Stars at 87 points, though they've played two game more than Dallas. The Stars could really make that mean something with two points tonight.
Much more on each team after the jump...
Dallas has placed a lot of pressure on their penalty kill with two consecutive contests that featured an abnormal number of scrums and misconducts. Opponents have succeeded in getting the Stars to put themselves down a man, but Dallas has held firm, killing eight of eight in those games.
"We're OK with scuffles and energy against these guys," Gulutzan said of the extracurriculars. "They're in here trying to win a game, and there's emotion in the game. I thought that second period scrum was great, guys sticking up for each other."
If you keep playing with fire, as they say (and excuse the horrible pun, it's not intended to be a reference to Calgary), you're going to get burned. The Stars need to be more disciplined now on their four game road trip.
It appears as though an ailing Brenden Morrow will remain in a fourth line role with power play duties attached, and so we'd expect lines to be similar to what they were Saturday - But what exactly does that mean?
Radek Dvorak was on the fourth line by games end, Tomas Vincour played with Jamie Benn, and Adam Burish played with Vernon Fiddler. Post-game comments led some to believe that Dvorak could be suffering from some kind of ailment, but there's no official word on that.
The Vernon Fiddler line was tasked through the early part of the game with checking Jarome Iginla's trio, and it went very poorly. The Stars struggled to contain the Flames throughout and adjusted a few times that we could see. How those adjustments will work out with Sutter now getting last change will be a big part of this one. The Ribeiro and Fiddler lines will have to do some defensive work to get by.
Forwards started as this Saturday:
And ended something like this:
It's anyone's guess at this point, as the Stars did not practice Sunday morning before leaving for Alberta.
Mark Fistric remains out. Defensive pairings should stay the same. Kari Lehtonen will be in net, of course.
In 11th place in the West with just 83 points and six games to play, the Flames can only earn a maximum of 95 if they completely win out, and they know that it's a tough, tough road. Though they're not eliminated officially, so they'll plug on.
"We won't give up, we're going to play hard, that's all we can do right now," said Jarome Iginla. "Our chances are slim. We have to run the table, but nobody will give up and we'll just work on the next one, take the same chances, and if we do, they'll go in."
He's right about those chances eventually going in. The disparity in shots on goal and scoring chances throughout much of the game Saturday was heavily in Calgary's favor. Dallas bent, but didn't break often, and when they did Kari Lehtonen was there to mop up the mess. The Stars didn't allow much in the way of second chance opportunities, despite all the Flames possession, and they'll have to be similarly tidy tonight if they wish to effectively end their foes season.
The Calgary Sun reports that someone asked Michael Cammalleri if the Stars are an aggravating team: "No chance," he said. "I'm not gonna give them that. Not even a little bit."
There's a little pesky bit of truth shining through that one despite his attempts to not give anyone bulletin board material.
Offense is where Calgary has struggled down the stretch and their aim will be to get back on track early against Dallas, like the Stars jumped on them Saturday. Calgary has scored just six total goals in their last five games over all.
Their offense at home is considerably better, however. In 13 home games since the All-Star break the Flames have tallied 39. (Exactly three per).