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Gameday Preview: Montreal Canadiens @ Dallas Stars (6:00pm CST)

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The Stars carry a four-game losing streak to the East into this one as they desperately try to get back in the win column.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens will take on the Dallas Stars in a regular season hockey contest this evening at American Airlines Center.

Everything else after that is a guess.

The Stars were the league's worst home team for a time, while winning on the road. Then after a 3-1-1 home stand they lost three in a row on the road, giving up five goals in each of their last four outings. Three different Dallas goaltenders gave up five goals each in back-to-back-to-back games.

So- What will happen with this team next is anyone's guess: Like how in the world the Stars, a top-ten scoring team in the league with 2.85 goals per game, is 12th in points percentage in the Western Conference. The only thing for sure at this point is that Lindy Ruff wants his team to explore the potential of their offense, despite the league-worst defensive shortcomings.

"When we are using our speed, using the north-south - no different than the Sceviour goal - getting pucks behind their D and creating foot races, that's our game," Ruff said of his team Friday. "When we stall out in the neutral zone, go east-west, that's not our game."

So there is still a belief there that the speed game we saw last season is the way to go. The trouble is executing it when the confidence on the back end is not there, and the breakouts are not clean.

Against the Canadiens of the last several years you might expect an inability to attempt such a game, but Montreal has been a pretty "high event" team this season. They control possession well enough, but there are, on average, a combined 112 Corsi events in their contests per 60 minutes this season. That's the sixth most in the league.

The Stars? A league high 117 Corsi events (shots, missed shots, blocked shots, goals) between them and their foes per 60 minutes this season.

So this one, as apparently all Stars games do, could have some serious action. The trick is getting it past their shot-blockers, who have stood in front of the second-most pucks in the league at 362 entering play Monday, behind only San Jose at 403.

The Canadiens played last night in Chicago, but aren't slowed by much these days. Certainly not back-to-backs, in which they're 4-1-1. They allow (going into last night's game) 2.48 goals per game. Compare to Dallas' now league-worst 3.58 number.

One thing the Stars might want to do? Score first.

That hasn't always worked out well for them (they've lost 8 of 13 when scoring first, second worst in the NHL) but it sure does for Montreal- Best in the league with a 9-0-0 record when scoring first. They have not lost a game when leading after one period. They're 10-0-0 when leading after the second period.

These are them:

Pacioretty-Desharnais-Weise
Galchenyuk-Plekanec-Gallagher
Sekac-Eller-Parenteau
Prust-Malhotra-Tangradi

Markov-Subban
Gonchar-Emelin
Gilbert-Weaver

That would be Sergei Gonchar, of course. How is that working out for them?

Given that, and their record of 8-4-1 since the trade, it would seem to be working out just fine. Playing nearly 20 minutes per game he's recorded only a single minus rating in 12 outings.

Turning to the Montreal media for a starting goaltender on the back-to-back:

Speculation, I think, if cognates are a thing between French and English, but there's a good chance Dustin Tokarski could get the nod. The kind of backup certain teams would kill for, he's 3-2-1 as a starter, and in seven total appearances has recorded a .914 save percentage and a 2.44 GAA, including stopping 28 of 29 in a win at the Joe, and 29 of 20 for a victory in Washington.

From Stars PR:

The Dallas Stars return home on Saturday night as the club opens a three-game home-stand against the Montreal Canadiens. This marks the first of two contests between the two clubs scheduled for the 2014-15 regular season. The Stars went 0-2-0 against Montreal last season, but come into Saturday's tilt having earned points in six of their last eight games against the Canadiens at American Airlines Center (5-2-1). Dallas forward Ales Hemsky scored three goals in four games against Montreal in the 2013-14 season, denting the net in each of his last three games against them. Hemsky enters Saturday's matchup having registered 13 points (7-6=13) in his last 11 games against the Canadiens.

Remember to arrive early for this one- A 6:00pm start that will get you on your way for merriment at a very reasonable hour. No matter what may come to pass.