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2014 NHL Playoffs: Previewing Dallas Stars @ Anaheim Ducks- Game 1

Six years worth of playoff drought ends for the Dallas Stars tonight at 9:00pm CST in Anaheim.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we did it, friends. We've seen 458 consecutive regular season games. We've lived through 2,159 playoff-less days. No more.

Tonight the Dallas Stars are back in the fray. The multiple overtimes. The stress. The ice cream headaches. The late nights. The early mornings. The less-than-forthcoming injury reports- It's all back. The Stars' first round against the Anaheim Ducks is little more than 12 hours away.

Getting back into the playoffs after all that time is definitely a mission accomplished for this franchise. On the other side of that door they find themselves with a brand new task: Do some damage now that they're here. Enter those familiar Ducks, against whom the Stars went 2-1-0 this season.

Stars fans have become accustomed to watching the team get battered and bruised down the stretch, only to fail at the end. This time, not only did they qualify, but they did so with relatively good health intact, sans Rich Peverley.

Kari Lehtonen has played once in the last six days. Ray Whitney is ready to return after missing the final week of the season with an upper-body injury. Only Brenden Dillon's status is up in the air. The defenseman wore a boot on one foot following their playoff clinching win over the St. Louis Blues last week, and was expected to skate yesterday but did not.

He's being called a game-time decision by Lindy Ruff, but he has not skated since Friday. That makes the defense, outside of Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley teaming up, a bit of a mystery. The forward group, however, should shake out like this:

Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Ryan Garbutt
Erik Cole-Vernon Fiddler-Colton Sceviour
Ray Whitney-Shawn Horcoff-Alex Chiasson

Anaheim's not seen several of these particular combinations this season, yet their counter-attack will probably mimic strategies employed earlier in the year.

Let's take a look at the tendencies of these two head coaches in the season series to date. These are not totals for each line, only the most frequent matchups as revealed by the NHL's play-by-play data in my own database.


Here are the highlights from the Stars' most recent meeting with the Ducks, though it was quite some time ago.

Very clear ideas are on display here where Boudreau's thinking was concerned. He wants the Koivu line out there against Benn and Seguin when possible at even-strength. He wants Perry and Getzlaf neutralizing any peripheral threat from the Stars' "second" line, and the rest of it plays out from there.

February 1 @ ANA
Dallas Even Strength Faceoffs Anaheim
Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin 12 Cogliano-Koivu-Winnik
Cole-Eakin-Peverley 10 Getzlaf-Perry-Silfverberg
Garbutt-Fiddler-Roussel 12 Perrault or Steckel line
Whitney-Horcoff-Chiasson 5 Steckel-Jackman

Look at their first meeting of the season, also in Anaheim. Koivu and Winnik again against the Seguin trio. Getzlaf and Perry were deployed against the would-be second and third lines, and there was a mixed bag after that.

The bottom line is that if Boudreau had his way in these matchups, he wanted Koivu and company out there to neutralize Benn and Seguin, and that's what we'll expect tonight and Friday until he changes his stripes.

October 20 @ ANA
Dallas Even Strength Faceoffs Anaheim
Benn-Seguin-Peverley 11 Cogliano-Koivu-Winnik
Whitney-Eakin-Chiasson 7 Getzlaf-Perry/Misc
Garbutt-Fiddler-Roussel 4 Getzlaf-Perry/Misc
Garbutt-Fiddler-Roussel 3 Perreault/Silfverberg combo
Cole-Horcoff-Nichushkin 11 Palmieri or Perrault trios

Finally, looking at the Stars' only home meeting with the Ducks, we can see things are a little different. Ruff chooses to put Seguin's line out there against Getzlaf and Perry half of the time, usually in the offensive zone, but also against the Ducks' lesser trios.

Roussel and Garbutt get just as much duty against the top trio, and most of these were neutral zone and defensive zone starts, to the surprise of no one. Yet the game as a whole doesn't yield enough of a pattern to be overly telling, and it's probably quite simply because when the game is going well, as this one was, Ruff will roll his lines 1, 2, 3, 4 and let the chips fall where they may.

November 26 @ DAL
Dallas Even Strength Faceoffs Anaheim
Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin 5 Getzlaf/Perry
Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin 5 Perreault or Palmieri trios
Cole-Eakin-Chiasson 7 Perreault or Palmieri trios
Garbutt-Fiddler-Roussel 7 Getzlaf/Perry or Cogliano
Whitney-Horcoff-Peverley 7 Cogliano line or Bonino


Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt have not been together as a trio against the Ducks yet, so we'll see if that changes anything from a results perspective- It's doubtful it will from a planning point of view. But don't be surprised to see Boudreau try to sneak Perry and/or Getzlaf out against Horcoff, Whitney, Chiassion or any combination of the three.

In the playoffs even one bad shift (after an icing, for instance) can change the fortunes of all involved.

Here's how they've been rolling them lately:



The sight of Stephane Robidas out there in that grimace-inducing, bland color palette will be hard for Stars fans at first but when the puck drops an enemy is an enemy. Still, you'll no doubt see Robidas paired with Fowler, if that's how it falls, and think back to the last time the Stars were in the playoffs as veterans such as Robidas assisted youngsters in Niskanen, Fistric and Grossmann.

The Ducks remained quiet on the goaltender front, but Lindy Ruff is expecting Frederik Andersen and so is the national and local media. We'll see if he pulls a surprise, but it should be the rookie and his pristine 20-5 record.

The puck will drop tonight at what we can only imagine is somewhere between 9:10 and 9:15 CST on Fox Sports Southwest locally, NBCSN nationally for those of you unlucky enough to miss out on Ralph and Razor.