After dropping their weekend back-to-back contests to Los Angeles and Anaheim the Dallas Stars have enjoyed three off days in preparation for their tilt with the Calgary Flames - And change has been the order of the day.
On defense, Sergei Gonchar and Alex Goligoski have been separated and someone could even be in for a healthy scratch after Stars officials remarked there's a good chance that Kevin Connauton sees his first official action in a Stars uniform tonight.
Tuesday's practice featuring rookie Valeri Nichushkin had Stars fans buzzing but the winger was back with Horcoff and Roussel on Wednesday, and Rich Peverley will probably stay with Benn and Seguin for the time being.
"I've told Val that that there are times where he's going to get a look up there," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said yesterday, "but that line has been going pretty good for us with Pevs up there," Ruff said. "And actually [Nichushkin's] last two games have been good with the guys he's playing with."
So that experiment will probably wait.
The Stars begin the day in last place in the Western Conference with just six points through eight games, only two regulation wins, and a -8 goal differential. Calgary has points in six of their nine games, including a .500 record on the road.
Ralph and Razor will have the call tonight at 7:30pm CDT on Fox Sports Southwest proper, and be sure to visit our game-day thread for live discussion throughout.
Dallas will be without forward Ryan Garbutt, suspended for five games after his hit on Dustin Penner Sunday in Anaheim.
"I can't defend it," Lindy Ruff stated on the radio Wednesday. "As stated before the year they're trying to eliminate those. There was really no intent. It's the type of situation that the league wants the players to stay away from."
So the Stars will be shorthanded, and maybe even more so by a nagging injury Erik Cole is nursing. We await word later today on Aaron Rome's status on waivers and if the Stars recall an extra forward to help out. Until then consider the possibility that the Stars may carry seven on defense and 11 forwards.
And some double shifting, or Colton Sceviour or Travis Morin? We'll see. Whoever it is taking the minutes out there, Ruff wants to see more commitment to helping out on defense from his forwards.
"I wasn't happy with our group of forwards and the help they provided in some of those situations," Ruff said of the disappointments on Sunday night. "We got caught underneath the puck instead of above it and that falls on the shoulders of our forwards."
He was critical of both phases of the game on the Bob and Dan show yesterday, noting that zone exits and turnovers were handing opposing teams momentum at inopportune times.
"When we're good at [clearing the zone] we look really good," he continued. "When we make some mistakes they're in the back of the net."
From Stars PR: " Dallas has earned at least one point in 17 of the last 20 contests against the Flames in Dallas, boasting a 12-3-5 record at home since the start of the 2002-03 season. Forwards SHAWN HORCOFF and RAY WHITNEY lead all Stars with 15 career goals against the Flames in 61 games and 44 games, respectively."
After earning points in their first five games (3-0-2) the surprising Flames have fallen back to earth a bit, losing three of four and giving up 15 goals in the process.
Their power play is 8 of 37, and key to their wins. Three power play goals against the Kings - Win. Two power play goals against the Devils - Win. A power play goal each in points against the Canadiens and the Capitals.
So job one, and a failed one that killed things for Dallas in Anaheim, is to stay out of the box.
A look at their potential lineup, featuring Star-killer Mike Cammalleri...
It will be Kari versus Karri as Ramo will be in net. The backup accomplished something Dan Ellis could not Monday in holding the Los Angeles Kings to just two goals in a big win, and he'll look to build on that tonight at American Airlines Center.