In 11 of their 14 games prior to Tuesday's in Glendale the Dallas Stars had either led or were tied in the third period- They had managed to win only four of them. So you knew that their first win to end the skid would probably come with a third-period test.
They had the lead Tuesday, 3-2. They lost the lead yet again- But then something special happened in the form of Ryan Garbutt.
"I was just trying to hold onto it and make sure I cleared it," he said of his shorthanded game-winner, "and I didn't really have anyone come to me so I just tipped it to myself and skated as fast as I could."
As fast as he can is pretty fast, luckily, and it took the monkey right off their back, though they still weren't pleased with their effort in the game's first half.
"We didn't play well at all," Lindy Ruff told media. "We were really tight. We weren't making plays and we weren't skating very well."
They'll try to end up on the positive side of possession tonight, and hopefully the scoreboard, though the two don't always coincide. Evidence: Their first meeting with the Kings in which they out-attempted L.A. 64-50, yet lost 3-1 at the AAC after another third-period meltdown.
Settle in for this one late with us here and join the gameday thread: A (now) rare 9:30pm CST start time on Fox Sports Southwest.
Defenseman Alex Goligoski has been playing well of late, but is battling an undisclosed condition off the ice that's causing him to miss practices, as was the case again Wednesday. The defensemen paired off like this in the wake of his absence:
John Klingberg's debut was a pretty succesful one as he stayed poised in a tense battle the Stars needed badly to win given the state of things. His decision making and transition game were as-advertised. Will that be the case every game for a rookie? No. But a good start.
On offense Lindy Ruff mixed up his lines yet again at practice, reuniting the "super line" and reinserting Cody Eakin (upper body) into the mix.
Do those mean much of anything, particularly with Travis Moen coming in to potentially mix it up even further? Who knows, but they certainly have an abundance of bodies and combinations from which to choose. Chances are Moen will not, thanks to immigration issues, join the team until Friday back in Dallas.
After his stellar performance in Phoenix, one would expect Kari Lehtonen to backstop the Stars again this evening.
From Stars PR:
The Stars take on the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center on Thursday night in the second of three meetings between the two teams this season. Dallas dropped its opener with the Kings, 3-1, on Nov. 4 at home. Thursday's contest is the first and only tilt between the two teams in Los Angeles scheduled this season. The Stars went 1-1-0 against the Kings last season at STAPLES Center, and come into Thursday's game boasting a 5-1-1 record in their last seven games in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles you already know, having just seen them nine days ago in that most painful of fashions at the American Airlines Center. Losers of four straight heading into that one, they've used their 3-1 performance over the Stars to great effect- First taking the Islanders to a shootout and then spanking a hot Vancouver team 5-1 at home.
Last night, if you were following the score, you saw them leading the Anaheim Ducks throughout into the third period. What you may not have seen is that Anaheim held them to a dozen shots through 40 minutes and the Kings managed to score on three of them- One of which was a penalty shot, another an opportunistic point shot through traffic.
They went up 5-3 in the third on a 24% shooting night, but they were dominated, puck-possession-wise. Badly, being out-shot 40-22 at that time. Thus their eventual fate in a shootout despite the big third-period lead.
With the back-to-back situation, despite any real travel, they could choose to go with backup netmdiner Martin Jones. The 24-year old has started two games this season (1-1-0) and appeared in three altogether, posting an impressive .929 save percentage and a sparkling 1.73 GAA stopping 52 of 56 shots faces overall.
Their lineup, or something close to it: