The Dallas Stars were able to survive the struggling New Jersey Devils. Through the exploits of their netminder and a goal that never should have found its way past Eddie Lack, they out-lasted the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
Now they have before them another wounded animal of sorts in the Calgary Flames.
Calgary sits seven points up on the Stars and they've lost six in a row. Wait, how can both of those things be true?
The Flames built a big lead with a nice start to the season. A real nice start. 17-8-2 saw them 13 points ahead of the Stars on December 5th, the highest scoring team in the Western Conference and second in the league to only the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lately, however, their coach sounds like Dallas'-
"We skated probably one of our best first periods of the season and we get back to the locker-room down 0-2," Bob Hartley told media Tuesday night. "Offensively, I think that we're doing lots of good things, but we want to push the envelope so much that suddenly the puck is behind us and it ends up in our net."
During their most potent run offensively this season they scored 42 goals in an 11-game span (3.82 per). In this six-game skid that number's crashed down to 1.67 per, including just seven even-strength goals.
Now that the offense has gone away a little, Hartley says his team is trying too hard.
"Our desire to make it happen so bad puts us in a situation where we give a breakaway, where we gave a few two-on-ones," he said. "I felt that's where we lost the game." [Tuesday night]
So perhaps they'll be a little cautious. They're already the league's third-least penalized team, so power plays could be few and far between.
Four of their top-eight scorers this season? Defensemen. Mark Giordano leads the team with 31 points in 33 games. Joining him in that top-eight are blueliners TJ Brodie, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell.
Their defense is out-scoring Dallas' 87-53. Here's the lineup, or something like it:
It's that Gaudreau (23 points) and Hudler (30) combination they'll need to look out for where forwards are concerned, but their offense has been balanced with Monahan and Glencross each tallying 21 points.
Their shot differential is nearly even at 27.7 taken versus 28.3 given up, but the're the league's third-worst possession team with a Corsi % of just 45.2, so the Stars could get some opportunity to have that puck.
Dallas out-shot Vancouver 17-4 in the second period Wednesday in Vancouver, but took just five in the first period while getting blitzed and then only seven in the final frame (one of which was an EN goal) while trying to protect a third-period lead.
Lindy Ruff will likely stick with the defensive combinations that have generated consecutive wins:
On offense it's a little tricket. He started with this Wednesday:
Then seemed to really like this as things went on:
It was widely reported that Anders Lindback, freshly re-called from the Texas Stars, would get a start in the first two games of this road trip. Evdently that was outside of the consideration that Kari Lehtonen would ever play as well as he did on Tuesday in saving his team as the opening minutes unfolded.
Now, predictably, Kari Lehtonen is the scheduled/supposed starter (via Mike Heika, travling with the team) in a reversal of a previous announced schedule. His performance to start the road trip was simply too good to ignore, and he'll get the chance to show he should be in during all of these vendor/outside party discussions.
From Stars PR:
Dallas squares off against Calgary for the first of three meetings in the 2014-15 campaign, two of which will take place at Scotiabank Saddledome. Last season against Calgary, the Stars collected points in every game (2-0-1) and won their only meeting on the road against the Flames by a 7-3 score. Nine Stars players tallied point in the road contest on Nov. 14 including a six-point game (1-5=6) from Stars captain Jamie Benn and a five-point outing (4-1=5) from Tyler Seguin.