The Dallas Stars play in the most difficult division in hockey. In order to make the playoffs they will have to take advantage of the conference's weaker group, as they did last season going 14-6-1 against the Pacific.
That opportunity opens this evening as the 0-2-0 Edmonton Oilers and their new coach Todd McLellan make a visit to the American Airlines Center.
Dallas went 2-1 against Edmonton last season, including a 3-2 win here in Dallas despite surrendering 37 shots on the night in what was a sparkling early season performance from Kari Lehtonen. He could get the chance to do the same again tonight as Antti Niemi started the first pair.
The Oilers come looking for offense, having scored just once in six periods. The Stars have put up, no surprises, three goals a game thus far, but need to be cleaner in their own end. You may have heard this story.
Stars fans have reacted strongly after a loss in the season's second game- And that's always a dicey proposition. Any coach or player generally wants and deserves a little more leeway than that as new faces enter play and a team tries to find itself.
But Lindy Ruff was having none of it yesterday at practice-
"I used the word embarrassment after the game. I was embarrassed the way we defended, some of our neutral zone stuff, missed assignments. We had five guys deep in the zone when they scored for the game- winning goal. That was unacceptable for what we've gone through and tried to play defensively."
So he was not amused, and words like embarrassment and unacceptable are strong ones.
The Stars tried some different things at practice:
So the Nichushkin demotion that came quickly in Denver looks to continue, and Colton Sceviour could see his first action of the season. Janmark, Eakin and Hemsky looks like a pretty interesting combination, provided the back-checking is there.
Defensive pairs look un-changed, and you would expect that the Stars' two-headed goalie would rear its other head this evening against the struggling Oilers.
"I think once we get a little more rhythm and execution on the power play, get a sense of where we need to be and what we're trying to accomplish we'll have more opportunities there to score," said former Sharks' head coach Todd McLellan.
'Execution on the power play.'
That sounds like a good description of the Stars' Saturday night. Back-to-back unnecessary minors for too-many-men and delay-of-game helped swing the game in the Avalanche's favor over the weekend- A very talented Edmonton Oiler lineup looking to get things rolling offensively would be a bad group to hand such opportunities.
They've scored once on 55 shots this year, and that one came off a deflection. That's the definition of "due". The Oilers are due.
"I thought our power play sucked the life out of us so that was disappointing," said McLellan. "Yet, some of the things we were doing on the power play were the right things but we killed it ourselves with poor execution, poor passing."
Again. He is really emphasizing power play. Stay out of the box.
As always, their uber-talented lineup, featuring that guy that got drafted really high that people won't stop talking about no matter what. (Again, due)
They out-attempted the Blues 57-49 on opening night and then out-attempted the Predators 57-42 on Saturday, so they hold a very healthy edge in puck possessions through two games against two very good Central Division opponents.
Can the Stars make them pay, as have their divisional brethren in the Oils' first two games? Or will they once more fall short against Central competition?
We'll see you here in the gameday thread or at the AAC, or both, @ about 7:38pm CST for puck drop.
From Stars PR:
DRILLING FOR OIL
The Dallas Stars play their third game of the season and second on the home front Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers at American Airlines Center. Dallas won two of their three games against the Oilers season. Stars captain Jamie Benn has registered 20 points against the Oilers over his career and has points in every game this season (1-1=2). Right wing Ales Hemsky leads Dallas in points (1-2=3) and registered two assists against the Oilers last season. Originally drafted by Edmonton in 2001, the native of the Czech Republic spent eleven seasons with the team and tallied 477 points (142-335=477) in 652 total games.
JANMARKS THE SPOT
Rookie forward Mattias Janmark made headlines once again when he netted his second career NHL goal in the first period on his first shot of the game for the second game row on Saturday night against Colorado. The goal came just 20 seconds after the puck dropped at Pepsi Center and marked the first assists of the 2015-15 campaign for both defenseman Jason Demers and left wing Antoine Roussel. Janmark scored his first NHL goal last Thursday in his debut game against the Pittsburgh Penguins just 1:39 into the first period of a 3-0 shutout for Dallas.
EAST OF EAKIN
Dallas center Cody Eakin registered his first points of the 2015-16 season with two goals (2-0=2) against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver last Saturday. The points marked the third season in a row the center has garnered at least one point within the first two games of a season. Eakin now shares the team-lead in goals with rookie center Mattias Janmark (2-0=2). Eakin has tallied one goal (1-0=1) against Edmonton over his career with the Stars.