After utter frustration halted the Dallas Stars in their tracks in their first game after the All-Star break, Lindy Ruff's crew jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against the Ottawa Senators. They appeared to be cruising toward a very rare road victory in the NHL that did not require 60 minutes of effort.
They were wrong. Ottawa tied the game and only John Klinbgerg could save it in the third - a game full of mistakes went in the win column while so many missed opportunities of late ended with nary a point for the good guys. The Stars' coaching staff has taken notice.
"I thought we played better in Montreal than we did here," Ruff said Thursday. "In that Montreal game we gave up very little and we created a lot. Tonight, I didn't like the mistakes we made when the game was 3-0. Tonight, we found a way to win. The other night we deserved to win and didn't."
It's a common theme. The Stars looked like the more deserving group against Montreal. They looked like they more deserving group against Boston before the break, out-shooting the B's 37-27. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Colorado and put 40 shots on the board but lost.
Perhaps worst of all was their 47-22 out-shooting of these Winnipeg Jets in Dallas on January 15th. 47 shots. They raced around these Jets at will that night, drawing seven power plays in the process and produced just a single goal.
They need a little rectification on that score tonight - not to correct an injustice, but rather in the name of actually catching these Jets. Sure, Winnipeg sits nine points ahead of the Stars way up in 5th place, but they're a team the Stars have to hope falls. Los Angeles will move up, and someone else needs to slip back to keep things interesting.
A win here moves Dallas to just seven points back with two games in hand and another head-to-head matchup on February 24th.
Oh, and the Stars are virtually tied with Colorado and Minnesota, meaning even one bad night could see the Stars drop to 12th. Such is life from now until April, if they can keep things interesting.
An optional practice was held in Winnipeg on Friday, and taking part, among others, were Brett Ritchie and Erik Cole - a sign that at least one, or both, could be ready to return. Cole in particular would be a big shot in the arm for this team.
It is with all of the aforementioned pressure in mind that the Stars take on these Jets, thought to be relatively bullet-proof at home in MTS Centre. The truth this season is they've sent the home crowd away happy 12 times and somewhat less so another 12 (12-9-3). They recently endured a stretch where they lost 8 of 13 at home - though they've won three of their last four there.
Overall, however, they've lost two straight and have been a bit leaky, surrendering five goals in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Also leaky for them lately? The penalty kill, which has surrendered three goals on its last five responsibilities. Excluding the Stars' 0-7 on the job against them, they've surrendered 11 power play goals to opponents on 34 opportunities since January 8th. Well below their season average, which is not bad at all at 82.7%.
They're third in the league in hits at 1,522 - sometimes the mark of a team that doesn't have the puck as much as they'd like, but Winnipeg is 10th in the NHL with 51.6% Corsi (possession). That despite being a well below-average faceoff team at 48%.
Their lineup, or something like it.
4th liner Matt Halischuk went on IR. TJ Galiardi was re-called in his stead. Ondrej Pavelec is expected to get the start in pursuit of repeating his 46-save heroics against the Stars.
From Stars PR:
Rookie defenseman John Klingberg earned an assist and scored the game-winning goal against Ottawa on Thursday night for his sixth multi-point game of the season. The 22-year-old has posted seven points (3-4=7), including two game-winners, over his last seven games. With his goal Thursday, Klingberg has now tied the Dallas Stars franchise record (since 1993-94) for most goals in a season by a rookie defenseman with seven (Matt Niskanen, 2007-08). The Gothenburg, Sweden native's seven goals this season are tied for first among NHL rookie defensemen and share 21st among all League blueliners, while his two game-winners are tied for 13th among all NHL defensemen. Klingberg currently ranks second among rookie defensemen and seventh among all NHL rookies with 20 points (7-13=20) in 34 games this season.