The National Hockey League's top team - the Dallas Stars (Are you used to that yet?) - continue a four-game road trip tonight as they head out on ye olde Western Canadian road swing to first confront the Calgary Flames.
The Stars are coming off a historic comeback win, the likes of which the franchise has not seen since 2007, after overcoming a 0-3 third period deficit in Minnesota. The 3-on-3 session that seems to favor Dallas ended like you'd expect - Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin combining on a game winner.
Both teams have been off since Saturday. Calgary is bringing up the rear in a division led by the Los Angeles' Kings 29 points while Dallas is looking to hang on to a five-point lead over a hard-charging St. Louis Blues team.
Mike Heika reported lines at Monday's practice were these, adding that Ruff told him not to read into the defensive pairs:
So gone might that Sharp line with Spezza and Nichushkin that we glimpsed when times got rough in Minnesota - but with Ruff and the ebb and flow of the game you never can tell.
There's little reason to think Antti Niemi won't be back in net, while Kari Lehtonen continues to go through full practices and should be ready to come off IR after Wednesday and help out on the back-to-back in Edmonton and Vancouver.
Calgary, meanwhile, is not a good hockey team. They're last in penalty kill, points percentage, goals against per game, and overall goal differential. Second worst in wins to only their fellow Canadian Maple Leafs.
That being said, they've won four in a row at home and the Penguins, Blackhawks and Red Wings have all failed at the Saddledome recently - which says at least something about their potential, even if their consistency is poor.
They made the playoffs last season with largely the same roster, they're desperate, and let us not forget that Dallas has lost games this season to Toronto, Colorado and, uhh, Toronto again.
It looks like a cupcake, but the Stars haven't taken care of those this year. Add to it Dallas' troubling play over the weekend in getting dominated possession-wise by the Vancouver Canucks and then falling behind 3-0 to the Minnesota Wild, and it's high alert tonight in Alberta.
Their lineup, or something like it-
Calgary got flattened by the Sharks on Saturday night 5-2, and were down 4-0 in the third period before scoring a couple of meaningless garbage-time goals. They've been disciplined of late, trying to protect their penalty kill, but even that hasn't worked. They allowed San Jose to go 2-for-2, and Anaheim 2-for-2 as well four days earlier.
Their power play has scored just once in their last seven games.
From Stars PR:
The Dallas Stars travel to Scotiabank Saddledome for the second of four games on their Western Conference road trip to face the Calgary Flames. The Stars and Flames meet for the first of three times during the 2015-16 season, with Dallas recording points in six of their last seven games (5-1-1) against Calgary. The Stars have won three straight games (3-0-0) on the road against Calgary, registering a 4-3 shootout victory in the most recent meeting between the two teams at the Saddledome on March 25, 2015. Forward Ales Hemsky tallied a season-high two goals (2-0=2) and forward Tyler Seguin posted two assists (0-2=2) and the game-deciding goal in the shootout.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Stars captain Jamie Benn was named on Monday as the NHL's First Star of the Week ending Nov. 29. He registered two points (1-1=2) with a season-best +3 plus/minus rating to help the Stars rally from a three-goal deficit in the third period on Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild. Benn currently ranks second in the NHL with 35 points (18-17=35) this season. His 18 goals are the most in the League and his 17 assists share seventh. The forward has points in eight straight contests (8-6=14) and in 14 of his last 17 games (12-13=25). Benn's two-point outing against Minnesota on Saturday marked his 11th multi-point game of the 2015-16 season, tied for the most amongst all NHL players with Chicago's Patrick Kane. The native of Victoria, B.C. is riding a seven-game point streak (6-9=15) against the Flames and has recorded points in 10 of his last 11 games (10-10=20) against them. Over the course of his career, Benn has 25 points (12-13=25) in 20 games against Calgary.