It's early in the NHL's 82-game schedule. The length of which is a plus when you're on a six-game losing streak like Dallas' Stars, following another demoralizing decision at the hands of the hated Nashville Predators Thursday night.
Dallas has lost six of seven at home this year, despite strong support from the fan-base, but how long can it continue, as supporters leave disappointed? Thursday night it was Pekka Rinne's excrement that happened to be, err... "permeating" the "cheerios" of many others. The quality of competition and the likelihood of an offensive breakout point in unfavorable directions this evening against the visiting Sharks.
And those Sharks... The Sharks... are an enigma.
They started 4-0-1, as you might expect, and then went on a four-game losing streak against... Eastern Conference teams?
The sum total of that mess, after a loss to Vancouver on Thursday night at home, is a streaky group with a 7-5-2 record and a power play that's scored in 10 games already- tied for 3rd in the league at 25%.
They're a middle-of-the-pack team where possession is concerned with nearly an even 50% Fenwick percentage, and their shot totals indicate as much: Taking 32 a game while allowing better than 31. So it should be a reasonably "high-event" affair this evening, unless the Sharks try to mirror what Anaheim's posture was.
As for the Stars, changes are coming on the defensive side of things, as we detailed yesterday.
"I think we're going to look at splitting up our top two," Ruff said Friday of Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley. "Dillon and Benn, I think Dillon struggles a little bit on the right side. I talked about Goligoski maybe playing the right. It's something where we could easily split them up and then go back to. But I think tomorrow we will start where those two are split up."
The Stars were able to ride the Goligoski/Daley horse down the stretch into the post-season last spring, and perhaps they can again some other time, but for now they'll be asked to anchor things apart.
Ruff will have a veteran lefty (Daley, Goligoski, Gonchar) playing the right side at all times. Oleksiak, Jordie Benn, Brenden Dillon and Kevin Connauton will fill in the rest.
Ultimately, however, it's the offense that must pick up, particularly in front of Lindback. None of those five goals scored in their last four games came from Spezza, Seguin, Benn, Nichushkin or Cole. Or Hemsky.
Part of that is getting the power play back in working order, but starting even further back- Achieving the level of possession that draws those calls. They were unable to convince the zebra outside of the game's opening minute Thursday against Nashville.
They'll have to try to get something going without Cody Eakin and Valeri Nichushkin, both expected to miss this one with lingering injuries.
Bigger news still, however, could be that Kari Lehtonen may not play. Anders Lindback was reported off the ice first yesterday while Kari stayed to work on some things. Not a slam dunk that Lindback starts, but something to keep an eye on.
They're clearly looking for a shakeup wherever possible. We'll see how it all pans out tonight at 7:00pm CST.