The Dallas Stars return to action tonight after their dramatic overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild Saturday - and once again it's a lesser-thought-of Atlantic Division team that beat the Stars with a terrific goaltending performance last season...
No, not the Leafs again - the Sabres.
Buffalo took the Stars down 3-2 in upper New York last season despite 40 shots from the visitors, so Ruff's bunch will look to avoid the same fate tonight and keep rolling against the East. They'll do so with Patrick Eaves back in their lineup.
"I have been ready for a little bit here, so I am excited to get back in," said Eaves Monday after a 15-game absence. "It's not fun at all, but I worked hard to get back. I am ready to go."
So the line-blender continues for Ruff and his group that has already seen nearly a new forward configuration per night through 18 games thanks to injuries and juggling.
The Sabres are missing Evander Kane and could possibly be without Zemgus Girgensons thanks to an undisclosed injury that kept him from practice - but that hasn't slowed them much as they're 5-1-1 in their last seven.
The puck drops early tonight just after 6:00pm on Fox Sports Southwest.
Dallas has sent Radek Faksa and Curtis McKenzie to the AHL, as you no doubt know by now - and Patrick Eaves and Travis Moen are finally healthy and ready to re-join the lineup. These were the lines at practice Monday:
So Colton Sceviour may have to watch along with Moen while the Stars try to deal with the reality of just too many NHL-quality forwards healthy all at one time - and it's quite a boost for the Texas Stars.
The way the two-headed goalie monster has been used you would expect that Antti Niemi would get back in the action tonight, but you never know...
The Buffalo Sabres have been out-shot 138-99 over their last four games. 32, 38, 31, and 37 shots against in that span, and they've given up a power play goal in three straight.
Combine that with their 3-7-0 start to the season and the Stars are looking another Atlantic Division dog in the face tonight, right?
Except the Sabres are 3-0-1 over the aforementioned stretch and enter this one with a 6-2-1 record over their last nine thanks to stellar goaltending.
The Stars might be catching these Sabres twice in a bad week.
Buffalo is not exactly doing it the was Dallas is, either, having held their opponents to two goals or fewer in six of their last seven contests.
That being said, and their 8-8-1 record after a bad start not withstanding, Buffalo hasn't played the West yet. Just once, and that was a loss to the Sharks on Saturday night on home ice.
They have the trump card tonight, however - his name is Matt Moulson, and his would be a face on the Mount Rushmore of notoriously deadly Dallas-Stars-Killers. 14 points in just 11 games against Dallas to go along with a 31%(!!!) shooting percentage in his career.
Their lineup, or something like it:
Buffalo lost Robin Lehner in the season opener and have been getting stellar results lately from Ullmark (a rookie) and Johnson in his relief. The Buffalo News tells you about it:
Ullmark and Johnson have been better than expected, propelling the Sabres to wins in five of the last seven games. Buffalo faces its biggest test of the season Tuesday when the Dallas Stars and the NHL's best offense visit, and the goaltenders seem ready.
"It's a good challenge for us to see what we can really do," Johnson said Monday in First Niagara Center.
Ullmark and Johnson have alternated in net during the past four games, with the lone constant being good results. They have combined for a .949 save percentage, stopping 131 of 138 shots, with a 3-0-1 record. [Buffalo News]
From Stars PR:
WANTED MEN IN BUFFALO
The Dallas Stars travel to Buffalo to face the Sabres on Tuesday night at First Niagara Center in the first of two meetings during the 2015-16 season. The two teams play twice within a five-day period, with Buffalo making the trip to Dallas this Saturday to play the final game of the season series. The Stars and Sabres each won their game on home ice last season (1-1-0), but the Stars have collected points in five of their last six overall contests (4-1-1) against Buffalo. In the most recent game played at First Niagara Center, the Sabres defeated the Stars, 3-2, on Feb. 7, 2015. Defenseman John Klingberg registered two assists (0-2=2) with the goals scored by forwards Tyler Seguin (1-0=1) and Cody Eakin (1-0=1).
THE GHOST OF GOTHENBURG
Stars defenseman John Klingberg tallied a three-point game (1-2=3) and recorded the game-winning goal in overtime on Saturday night to help lead the Stars to a 3-2 victory against the Minnesota Wild. His three-point outing against the Wild marked the second-most points he has ever recorded in an NHL game (most: four points (2-2=4) at Winnipeg on Jan. 31, 2015). The native of Gothenburg, Sweden ranks second in the NHL in assists (16) and fourth in points (4-16=20), while he leads all NHL defensemen in both categories. Klingberg has recorded points in three of his last four games (2-5=7) and has tallied mutli-point games in four of the last six games (2-7=9). He has registered points in both games in his NHL career against the Buffalo Sabres, tallying three assists (0-3=3).