The Stars have become the hunted atop the league standings and it's brought them to the edge of losing "three of four" and twice consecutively for the first time this season.
"We have a target on our backs, and we know that," Alex Goligoski told media Friday. "We are seeing some pretty good games from other teams right now. It's going to be like that the rest of the way."
Dallas' biggest immediate threat in the form of the St. Louis Blues handled them 3-0 a week ago. The surging Calgary Flames, eager to validate their ascendancy, made it seven in a row in shutting the Stars offense down on Tuesday. Now the Canadiens, with whom the Stars' have dueled atop the league standings, come calling.
And they're desperate, losers of seven of their last nine- A cautionary tale for the kind of swoon Dallas hopes to avoid.
On December 2nd Montreal occupied the NHL's throne with 41 points. They were so far ahead of the rest of the East at the time that now over two weeks later and with 43 points, they still hold the second seed after an 0-6-1 slide. A luxury the Stars cannot afford.
Montreal's latest defeat came against the league's new hottest team- The Los Angeles Kings, but their record over their last seven games doesn't tell the story heading into this one.
They out-shot the Kings 45-20 and lost 3-0. They haven't allowed a single team in their losing streak to reach 30 shots. They allow the league's third fewest shot totals on average at just over 27 per game.
Those are possession numbers painting a picture of a team that is still every bit as good as its 19-4-3 start, and capable of breaking out at any minute after some unlucky outings like their visit from those Kings.
Their power play is slumping like Dallas', mired in an 0-for-21 stretch. Their penalty kill doesn't get much work thanks to their discipline. The Kings earned just two power plays on Tuesday and the Sharks did not manage to get on the job even once against them Sunday. They've only had to kill four power plays over their last three games.
Montreal now faces the unattractive specter of an eight-game road trip that begins tonight and takes them through a busy holiday season until they finally arrive back home on the second night of a back-to-back on January 6th.
They are, as you know, without their MVP in Carey Price (lower-body) and also winger Brendan Gallagher.
Their lineup, or something like it-
From Stars PR:
The Dallas Stars face off against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at American Airlines Center and meets Montreal on home ice for the first of two meetings during the 2015-16 season. The Stars have captured wins against the Canadiens in two of the last three home games and collected points in seven of their last nine at home (6-2-1). In the most recent meeting of the series in Dallas, the Stars defeated the Canadiens, 4-1, on Dec. 6, 2014. Forward Tyler Seguin led the club with three points (2-1=3) and captain Jamie Benn contributed two assists (0-2=2), adding the helper on both of Seguin's goals. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped 16-of-17 shots faced to record the victory for Dallas.
JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya registered a shorthanded goal (1-0=1) on Thursday night against Calgary and now is riding a two-game goal streak (2-0=2) and has points in four of his last five games (3-2=5). Oduya recorded goals in consecutive contests for the first time since March 14-16, 2013 and registered his first shorthanded tally since Dec. 12, 2008 vs. New York Rangers as a member of the New Jersey Devils. The native of Stockholm, Sweden has a four-game point streak on home ice (3-2=5) and has posted 11 points (4-7=11) this season, leading the club with 67 blocked shots. His four goals this season marks the most he's tallied in a single season since the blueliner posted a career-best seven goals in 2008-09.