Kari Lehtonen and the Dallas Star enter Saturday night's game after a perfect 2-0 result in Los Angeles, despite a thoroughly imperfect process.
The Kings dominated possession of the puck through two periods, out-shooting Dallas 30-15 in the process, though unable to score. Stars' coach Glen Gulutzan changed his lines for the decisive third, but will revert back to what they've had for this one tonight.
"We juggled in the third to create some friction and energy. It worked," explained Gulutzan. "We talked a lot about line changes, and we don't like to do it too much, but in this type of game, when you are taking in that much water, sometimes you need to change things up."
The same Colorado Avalanche the Stars saw just three nights ago skate into the AAC tonight to finish the season series with Dallas.
While the Stars have been traveling to Los Angeles, shutting out the defending champs 2-0, dealing with injuries and illness, and traveling back to Dallas, the Avalanche have been idle and practicing.
They try to snap a six-game road losing streak tonight in Dallas, but the American Airlines Center was good to them last year as they took a 1-0-1 record here in the 2011-2012 season, including that wild 7-6 OT win for the Stars in November.
Dallas was passed by the Blue Jackets in the standings Friday night, while Detroit beat Anaheim to move out of their reach. The Stars sit 10th in the conference, and pending the outcome of this afternoon's SJ/MIN battle, possibly unable to jump anyone even with a win tonight.
The puck drops tonight just after 7:00pm on Fox Sports Southwest.
From Stars PR, "RAY WHITNEY is currently on a five-game point streak (3G-3A-6 PTS), which tied for the seventh-longest active scoring streak. WHITNEY'S current five-game streak is his longest since registering points in seven consecutive contests (2G-8A-10 PTS) with Phoenix from March 12 - March 24, 2012."
Dallas reassigned Jamie Oleksiak to the Texas Stars Friday afternoon, signaling that Aaron Rome, out with a broken foot, is possibly nearing his return to the lineup. Without either one of them the Stars have no extra bodies on defense.
Lines on Thursday night were:
Ryan Garbutt remains out with a hand issue. Ray Whitney was able to go Thursday, but his status with an upper body injury is unkown definitively for Saturday night. Reilly Smith was healthy scratched and could come back in, pushing Roussel back down and Vincour out. We'll update after morning skate.
Kari Lehtonen will be in net in all likelihood.
The Avalanche had a plethora of odd-man rushes, particularly in the third period of Wednesday's contest, including several near breakaways on which the Stars were fortunate not to be whistled for penalties. Dallas cannot let the speedy Avs behind them alone as much tonight if they're to find success.
Their six-game road losing streak is but the tip of their iceberg away from Pepsi center this season. Overall the Avalanche are 2-9-3 away from home, and they're allowing 3.5 goals against on average.
They keep it close, however. Three of their last six road losses were after 60 minutes, and in all six they lost by just a single tally (plus a perfunctory empty-netter in Minnesota last week). They've scored just 13 goals in their last seven away from home - Less than two per game. Compare that to 24 goals in their last seven home games - 3.43 per.
Wednesday night Avs coach Joe Sacco made a couple of controversial decisions on healthy scratches, taking David Jones and Jamie McGinn out of the lineup.It worked, explained the Denver Post, but can it continue?
He moved Chuck Kobasew up on the lines, and he responded with a plus-4 effort and the game-winning goal. Mark Olver was put back in the lineup and he had a goal and assist (they took away what would have been his second assist, and gave it to Ryan O'Reilly on the game-winner by Kobasew). Cody McLeod got more ice time on the top lines in place of Jones/McGinn and, while he didn't get a point, he was involved in the play a lot.
Bottom line is, Sacco's changes looked good. But here's the thing: he can't get away with this for too long. Sorry, but if Kobasew and Olver now have to be relied upon to be the big point producers going forward, it's not going to work.
One of those scratched players will get the opportunity to come back in the lineup for Milan Hejduk, noted Stars-killer, who will sit out tonight's contest as part of a strategy for back-to-back contests. Colorado plays back at home tomorrow against the Vancouver Canucks.
Their lineup last time was something like this:
So that will be a bit different, but the challenges for the Stars will be largely the same as Wednesday. Watch for the Avs to continue to key on Brenden Dillon after his good, clean hit on Gabriel Landeskog Wednesday night at center ice.