It is around this narrative that so much ineffectual discourse will swirl (It started yesterday here)- But lost in it is what a big game this is for the Stars, now so close to cracking the West's top eight.
This last game before the All-Star break offers Dallas a chance to hit the down time with confidence, reiterating what they communicated with their 6-3 win in Chicago Sunday night: That they're charging at the right time.
After Colorado and Minnesota faltered again last night, the Stars can possibly (barring OT Monday night) catch Calgary or Los Angeles, climbing another rung and keeping pace within spitting distance of a wild card spot, a game in hand in their back pocket.
Dallas collected all four points available to them over the weekend, surviving furious rallies by the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals to push their point total to 49. They're now 12-5-2 (.684) since December 6th, and 10-4-1 at home in their last 15 after dropping 9 of their first 10 here at the AAC.
Lindy Ruff ran a lightly attended optional practice after the back-to-back Monday, so news is scarce, but there was this:
Patrick Eaves said he is ready to go, but Lindy Ruff wouldn't say if Eaves will play tomorrow.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) January 19, 2015
Ruff expects Brett Ritchie to return right after All-Star break. Not sure if Trevor Daley will be ready though.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) January 19, 2015
Not good news about Trevor Daley. On offense Ruff will have some decisions to make, and that's the kind of depth they want this time of year. The guess is that with the team having fought for some momentum here lately, he'll roll with what worked in Chicago and Eaves will get back in post All-Star break. My guesses are usually wrong.
No word on a starting netminder, but you'd imagine Kari Lehtonen will be back between the pipes after stopping 38 of 41 at the United Center.
Boston holds the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference as of this writing, but have been dominant of late as they tighten things up on their back end.
Columbus put a stop to their nine-game point streak (6-0-3) Saturday night with a 3-1 win, but even with that Boston has allowed just 18 goals over their last 10 games (1.8 GA/GP). Stingy. The stretch makes them a top-ten defensive team at 2.46 GA/GP on the season. Dallas remains at 28th with 3.27 against on average.
Of Boston's nine road wins this season, two have come in Buffalo and two have come in overtime. They've beaten only two teams currently in playoff condition (Pittsburgh and Detroit) away from home.
They rank 22nd in the NHL with 2.59 goals per game, but they have their moments- They're averaging 32.4 shots on goal over their last five games, and they'll be particularly motivated tonight for reasons that have currently escaped this chroniclers brain.
Nearly exactly a year ago on January 16th the Bruins arrived in Dallas and doubled up the Stars 4-2 thanks to 41 Bruins shots and two points each from Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
Something to watch out for: The Washington Capitals came here and absolutely dominated the Stars in the faceoff circle Saturday night 47-23. The Bruins rank 4th in the league at 53.4% on the dot.
Their lineup, or something close to it:
From Stars PR:
Dallas forward Erik Cole scored his 12th goal of the season on Sunday at the United Center. With the marker, Cole has now posted three points (2-1=3) in his last two games, and has three goals and five points (3-2=5) over the last four. The 36-year-old winger now ranks third on the Stars with 12 goals this season, while he is tied for fourth on the squad with 23 points (12-11=23) in 43 games. Of his 23 points this season, Cole has recorded 13 of them (7-6=13) over his last 13 games. The Oswego, N.Y. native scored one goal against the Bruins last season, and comes into Tuesday's matchup have tallied three goals and four points (3-1=4) in his last six games against them. Cole currently ranks second on the team with 17 goals and 28 points (17-9=28) in 38 career games against Boston.