The Dallas Stars had a good week last week- A great one, even. Three straight wins on the road against Ottawa, Detroit and Boston had everyone believing, and their loss to the Blackhawks, in which they were within a shot (or leading for long stretches) through 58:15 was encouraging.
Their power play failed to come through for them in that one, while Chicago's needed just 23 seconds to be the difference maker, and Lindy Ruff knows that will be an important part of this three-game Western Canada road trip.
""It's important. To say it's not would be lying," he conceded. "We need it to be a difference."
As has been the case in many off Dallas' road outings this season there is plenty to talk about off the ice as well.
Shawn Horcoff, former Oilers captain makes, what will be for him, surely, his emotional return to Rexall Place for the first time. Edmonton has acquired goaltender Ilya Brygalov, though it's not expected he'll re-join from the AHL in time for this one tonight. Philip Larsen has been in the headlines for mixed reasons and faces his former team tonight.
Oh and first-round pick Nail Yakupov, via his agent, is making noise about playing time and the trade rumors are starting already.
So earning only 10 points in their first 19 games has not precluded them from being a hot topic of conversation. They're lost three straight, and are 2-7-1 in their last 10 overall.
Puck drop is at 9:00pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest and TSN north of the border.
Dallas has experienced nearly perfect health where its skaters have been concerned. Nagging injuries have dogged some players and Kari Lehtonen missed some time, but the first real line-juggling type of injury comes as Ray Whitney was placed on injured reserve Tuesday afternoon.
Whitney didn't miss a shift against Chicago, had an off-day on Sunday, then practiced Monday and some part of Tuesday before rather suddenly being placed on IR.
So the Stars will roll with something like this:
"We've looked at a couple of different combinations," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Tuesday. "We tried something yesterday and we tried something today. We'll make a decision tomorrow." So it's a very fluid situation.
Forward Travis Morin has been recalled from the Texas Stars to give them another healthy body on the trip.
Kari Lehtonen should be the Dallas starter and the defensive pairings should remains the same, though Aaron Rome is now the scratch as Kevin Connauton plays in the AHL with Texas.
From Stars PR: "JAMIE BENN notched a primary assist on Saturday against Chicago to extend his current point streak to three games (2-1=3). BENN has also tallied points in four of his last five tilts (2-2=4). The 24-year-old now shares the club-lead with 16 points (6-10=16) through the first 17 games this season. The captain has registered six points (3-3=6) in his last six games against the Oilers, including posting three points (1-2=3) in his last three against them."
The Oiles are, uh, not very good, buddy.
Predicted by many to be a team that could possibly take the Central's fourth playoff spot and give the Pacific five (turns out it's the Coyotes...), the Oilers have once again fallen flat.
They've fallen eight points behind Dallas and have played two more than Ruff's squad in doing it, though cannot get to the absolute bottom with Buffalo and Florida matching and exceeding their ineptitude.
Edmonton has played just six home games this season but have given the home crowd little reason to miss them going 1-5-0 at Rexall thus far. They've scored a total of one goal in their last three home games combined.
They may not possess the puck very well in comparison to their their opponents but they do allow three fewer shots a game than does Dallas (33 versus 30), and their power play, though below average, is six full percentage points better. So they have that going for them.
In fact, that power play has scored 2, 1, 1, and 1 goals in their last four games (5 of 11), so staying disciplined on the road, even in Edmonton is a good notion.
All this on-ice stuff is boring in light of all the fun going on up there these days. One of the lesser known items of the week with Stars intrigue is former defenseman Philip Larsen, who had himself quite a night against Chicago...
"Three points, but I was on for four of their goals," said Larsen.
With Justin Schultz having missed the last five games with a sore groin, Larsen slid into his spot on the first power-play unit. He set up power-play goals by Nail Yakupov and David Perron and also helped on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' score, but two Blackhawks forwards - Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger - got in behind him for all-alone goals on Devan Dubnyk. He wasn't close enough, either, to big Bryan Bickell, who had an easy tap-in outside the goalcrease. [Edmonton Journal]
Copper & Blue is not very enthused about this Bryzgalov thing [Copper & Blue].
The Oilers managed four on the Blackhawks where the Stars could just get two the night before, by the way.
Their lineup still looks scary on paper and should not be discounted:
They have all the goaltenders. And former Texas Stars great Luke Gazdic, who is injured.
More from Defending Big D:
- Dallas Stars Place Ray Whitney on Injured Reserve; Recall Travis Morin From AHL
- Is Dallas Stars Rookie Valeri Nichushkin the Most Well Rounded of the 2013 Draft Picks So Far?
- Ex-Dallas Stars Performing In New Locations
- Dallas Stars Broadcasters Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh Win Lone Star Emmy (Again)
- Dallas Stars Practice Update: Will Ruff Split the Cody Eakin Trio?