Competition in the Central Division thus far has been rather humbling for the Dallas Stars, to say the least. Tonight and Monday they can party like it's 2009, however, as they're in for very late starts against the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings.
After 3-2 and 4-1 defeats over the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks, respectively, the Stars are looking for their first three-game win streak since November 17th when they completed their Western-Canadian road sweep in Vancouver.
"We are coming off a couple games, emotional games here at home where we really played well defensively and played well away from the puck," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff told media Friday. We showed a lot of support for our young D, and I thought our young D responded and played very well for us."
The Sharks are coming off a 4-1 loss at Los Angeles in which they were frustrated by Kings netminder Martin Jones, who stopped 31 of 32 shots in the win.
"We should have been better on the power play early on," Joe Pavelski said after the game. "We had chances to get right back in the game, and we never took advantage."
This one is on TXA-21 locally and puck drop is just after 9:30. Remember these late starts? Eh?
The story in Frisco Friday morning was the absence of Ryan Garbutt from the Dallas lineup- Out now, or at least questionable, with a lower body complication that may or not be related to the bruise he was dealing with earlier.
So that potentially answers the question "Who do you sit when Vernon Fiddler comes back with Colton Sceviour playing so well?", which is a nice problem to have.
Lindy Ruff told media Friday that he expects Fiddler to make his return in San Jose. Aaron Rome (lower body) was placed on injured reserve to make room for Fiddler's activation, and lines run in practice were these:
Connauton and Gaunce will be an interesting pair to watch on this dangerous road trip. At home Ruff was largely able to control their competition level and zone starts- On the road opposing coaches may look their way every time like a quarterback and a rookie corner, sending Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar and the like at them whenever possible.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 27 of 28 at home Thursday night and it's expected he'll start both of these games on the road, where he's found the bulk of his success this season.
From Stars PR: "Stars forward ERIK COLE tallied a season-high three points (1-2=3) on Thursday for his first three-point game since April 4, 2012 when he posted three points (2-1=3) against Tampa Bay while with the Montreal Canadiens. COLE has now scored four goals and six points (4-2=6) over his last nine games. The 35-year-old shares sixth on the Stars with 15 points (6-9=15) this season."
The Sharks enter with a record of 2-5-1 in their last eight games, so they're not exactly rolling. Then again their record is 21-8-6 and they push 40 shots a night with alarming regularity (32, 27, 38, 39, 48, 38, 25, 45 in those eight games...) so compared to some, they're always rolling.
The metrics look good but the results haven't always been there. They beat the Blues, arguably the most complete team in the league, but lost to the lowly Predators the game before. They beat the Wild and lost to a pretty terrible New York Islander squad, not to mention dropping a 5-3 decision to the Hurricanes.
Most of those struggles were on the road. At home they're a nearly unstoppable 11-1-3 on the year.
At home they give up only 27 shots per game.
At home they average 40(!) shots taken over 15 games, including 51, 47, 50, 50, 51, and 48 shot performances to go along with some of the more "ho-hum" 40 shot nights.
That's a +13 average differential, and it is absurd. Add it to Gaunce, Connauton, Gonchar and Jordie Benn and it's a recipe for... well, it's not exactly a recipe for Christmas cookies. The Stars have a mammoth challenge in front of them this evening.
They'll be without a small piece of their vast tapestry of talent this evening after Dustin Brown did this to rookie Tomas Hertl's knee...
So San Jose fans are left to speculate what the lines will look like without him. Some say this:
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