The Dallas Stars will round out their first 10 games of the season tonight as October comes to a close on Halloween, trying to get to a .500 winning percentage after dropping five of their first nine.
They've dropped three of their first four at home after another overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center Tuesday night, where Lindy Ruff was clear in his post-game: It wasn't the Blues who beat the Stars. It was the Stars who beat the Stars.
"Let's make them earn their chances. Let's not hand them their chances. Let's not hand them the 2-on-1's when we have the lead," Ruff opined after the 4-3 loss. "We had too many giveaways on the rush. We made it easy on them. We cut the ice into about three-quarters and said here we're going to give you an opportunity."
Suffice it to say he'd like them to clean up their game in front of Kari Lehtonen. Against the Anaheim Ducks, as they very well know, they'll need to.
Anaheim is a gaudy 8-3-0 on the season after losing to those same Blues last night, including a 4-2-0 record on the road including wins in Chicago and Detroit.
"A rematch of the highly competitive six-game first-round series of last April" will be the popular angle to take on this one, sure- But I favor a more contemporary one. The Blues won last night. The Wild won last night. The Avalanche won last night. The Blackhawks won last night.
OK, the Jets didn't, but they're the Jets. Every other team in the Central appears to be of considerable quality, and ten games in with the entire month of October behind us, it's time to take a little peak at the schedule and realize how important every point is. Yes, already. The Stars need some.
Find this one, when you're done taking the kiddo trick-or-treating, on Fox Sports Southwest at about 7:37pm.
Dallas had a bit of good news to report this week as Curtis McKenzie was sent back to the Texas Stars (immediately scoring a goal, by the way...) because Valeri Nichushkin is nearly ready to become available again. The Stars sent him to Cedar Park for a conditioning assigment this weekend while he gets ready.
That, of course, leaves the lines as they've been this evening, presumably.
If Lindy Ruff should favor some tendencies from April it could be that Eakin's line is tasked with making life miserable for Getzlaf and Corey Perry, but they've struggled with those assignments this season when starting in their own zone.
Add to that the wrinkle that the Ducks, like the Stars, acquired a big-name number-two center to make road games like this easier (Ryan Kesler)- But unlike Dallas, they are indeed playing theirs on a different line, causing matchup problems that such depth will.
Will the "super line" be able to produce enough to keep up with this high-octane Ducks team that has talent spread throughout?
Kari Lehtonen should be in net. On the back-end, after Jamie Oleksiak's praise-worthy outing Tuesday, we'd expect for Jokipakka to remain the odd man out. Sergei Gonchar continues to improve and is skating with the team.
Anaheim enters just as they left off last season- Dominant and in charge of the Western Conference. Already they've ripped off a seven-game win streak in which they allowed 2, 1, 3, 1, 0, 1, and 1 goals. Eight goals against. In seven games.
That's just 1.91 against per outing (behind Nashville 1.78, Kings 1.80, Blues 1.89, Wild 1.89, Chicago 1.90). Is there any doubt what the truly good teams excel at? Those are the top-six in the league. Not just the conference. The Stars sit at 3.56 against per game- 28th in the NHL.
They can also fill up the score-sheet on you and control play at even-strength, boasting a 1.45 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio. Getzlaf and Perry lead the team with 12 points each, and young defensemen are right behind them with seven points each in Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen.
Anaheim owns the top point total in the West and the third-best goal differential in the league overall at +10.
They've two capable young men (quite a luxury) in goal, as the Stars saw in the post-season. Gibson started last night, allowing just two to the Blues where the Stars allowed four. The usage of these two has been interesting to say the least.
Andersen was in net for the Ducks' first back-to-back set of the season (both wins, by the way), but they went away from him after five straight wins in favor of Gibson, who's started three of the last four. Clearly they feel they can trust either one- So we'll see which one gets the call tonight.