Saturday's game was of vital importance to the Dallas Stars' hope that they may yet catch the Winnipeg Jets.
Tonight's is equally vital owing to the fear that they themselves will be caught by these hard-charging Colorado Avalanche- Tied with the Stars at 53 points.
Dallas' season of oddly juxtaposed statistics and results continued Saturday night: Get out-played at even strength and out-shot 40-32? Win. Out-shoot Montreal 42-26? Lose. Get out-chanced by Chicago? Win. Put 47 shots on Ondrej Pavelec? Lose.
And so it has gone. The Stars were able to defy some ugly, ugly, ugly possession numbers (see them here) on Saturday thanks to strong goaltending and the continued and rather sudden emergence of their power play- Now finally taking advantage of earning the most opportunities in the league, tied with Tampa Bay at 183 on the season.
Incidentally, the Stars earn more home power plays than any team in the league at a hair over four per game (and total quantity at 108)- But rank 27th in home PP% at 14.8%. They've not yet had the chance to unleash their new-found success at the AAC.
They're doing enough to keep themselves within arms reach of a wild card spot. They have to find some consistency if they're to inch their way closer while these Avalanche and the Wild nip at their heels.
Line combinations at Monday's practice took on a shape not seen for some time with Erik Cole and Patrick Eaves now in the mix, Ritchie departed for the AHL:
Benn-Demers - Jokipakka
Jokipakka was recalled after Jamie Oleksiak and a now healthy Brett Ritchie were sent back down to the Texas Stars over the weekend.
Lindy Ruff told media he is hopeful that Erik Cole can make his return Tuesday. He's been through several practices now in preparation.
Kari Lehtonen was A-OK as the Winnipeg Jets dominated even-strength play Saturday night, particularly in a dangerous second period. He held the Stars in it as the shots piled up, and that's the kind of performance they need. We'll presume he's starting tonight. Most likely.
The Avalanche have been mentioned of late as one of the most disappointing teams of 2014-2015 in light of their success last season- But while others talk Colorado has taken action, getting right back to their winning ways with an 11-5-5 record in their last 21 games- An impressive .643 points percentage in a stretch dating back to early December.
Two of their 21 wins, you'll recall, have come against these Dallas Stars that continue to struggle against the Central Division. The Avs have out-scored the Stars 9-5 in two games, both in Denver, including out-shooting the Stars 47-24 on November 29th.
Greeted with back-to-back games against a good Nashville Predators team coming out of the break, they could have faltered with nary a finger points. That's a tough schedule. Instead they pulled three out of the available four points in the home-and-home series, scoring three goals each night.
That caps an impressive run of points also earned against Boston, Tampa Bay, and Chicago in recent outings.
The Stars are 0-9 on the power play against Colorado this season. The Avs are 0-17 on the man advantage over their last five games.
It looked like the Stars might get a rare bit of luck when Jarome Iginla (bruise) and Alex Tanguay (seen with a bandaged hand) missed practices over the weekend, but both are expected to be ready Tuesday night in Dallas.
The Avs have lost 17 of 25 road games this year- A fact which should cripple them, except eight of them they've lost after regulation. Colorado has the league's second largest "loser point" total with 11. Only Buffalo, Edmonton and Carolina have fewer regulation/overtime victories (15). The Stars have the same number of points, but with 21 ROW's.
Their lineup, or something like it:
By my count this will be, curiously, the 10th time the Stars have played on a Tuesday night after enjoying Sunday and Monday off. They're 5-3-1 in the first nine occasions, for whatever it's worth.
From Stars PR:
The Dallas Stars scored a season-high four power play goals on Saturday night against the Jets, going 4-for-8 in the contest. This marks the first time that Dallas has scored four-or-more power play goals in a single game since Jan. 15, 2011 when the team scored four goals with the man-advantage in a 6-1 win against Atlanta. The Stars have now scored on the power play in each of the last three games since returning from the All-Star break, going 7-for-16 (43.8%) over that span. Forward Tyler Seguin currently shares seventh in the NHL with a team-high 20 points on the power play (7-13=20), while his team-leading seven power play goals are tied for 16th in the League.