The Dallas Stars finally lost two in a row, dropping both games in a back-to-back set against the Devils and Islanders over the weekend. In fact they've not won two games in a row in two weeks now- A rarity for this team.
They've dropped four of their last six games overall and can be said to be officially slumping a bit, but hit the season's halfway point with an even 60 points and a lead in the Western Conference.
If they want to keep it they'll need to clean up some recurring mistakes, many of which center around the penalty box as they did in Brooklyn where unnecessary fouls were committed with regularity.
The Stars will play their third game in four nights on the road. It's their seventh game in eleven days overall. The Rangers, in direct contrast, just enjoyed two days off and are playing their fifth game in the last fourteen. So we'll see if these at times weary looking Stars can turn on their usual third period charm.
As of late Monday night it was not clear if Jason Demers had escaped the long hand of the law where the NHL's discipline is concerned after his ill-advised boarding of Cal Clutterbuck changed the game Sunday afternoon.
Lindy Ruff was supportive of his player, telling media "I don't think he elbowed him, I don't think he did anything, really."
He did, but the expectation is usually that news would have come down yesterday. So we'll see before declaring him a free man.
The Rangers, unlike most of their brethren in the East have fared well against the West, recording a 10-7-1 record against the conference, including four wins over the Central.
They've been a little spotty of late, however, dropping five of their last seven, all in regulation. They have two of their last four, however, alternating wins over the Lightning and Anaheim Ducks with losses to the Predators and Florida.
Roberto Luongo shut them out Saturday night despite a 40-20(!!) shot advantage for the Rangers, so they can pour it on if you let them. Florida enabled them with five power play opportunities.
New York is a top-five offense in the league with 2.85 goals per game, but one team stat for them that sticks out like a sore thumb is their penalty kill, which has seen the opposition score five total power play goals in their last three games over the course of 11 attempted kills.
They've allowed goals on 12 of their opponents last 42 chances (71% kill rate), and sit at 80.0% for the season.
Which is where the Stars sit. At 80.0%. Matchy matchy.
They've a very balanced scoring attack led by Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash and Derick Brassard, but there are 15 Rangers with at least 10 points on the year already. (Stars also have 15)
Their lineup, or something like it-
It's a salty forward group and then there's Lundqvist on the back end. A big challenge for the Stars in the big New York spotlight, and a heck of a place to try to break out of this funk they're in.
From Stars PR:
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
The Dallas Stars conclude their three-game Eastern Conference road swing with a matchup against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. The Stars and Rangers play two games during the 2015-16 season, with the second meeting on Feb. 27 at American Airlines Center. Dallas swept the season series (2-0-0) last year, recording two victories against the Rangers for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign. The Stars have won four of their last six games (4-2-0) on the road against the Rangers, including a 3-2 overtime victory on Feb. 8, 2015. Forward Jason Spezza notched a three-point outing (1-2=3) in last season's win at Madison Square Garden with forward Ales Hemsky adding two points (1-1=2).
THE SHARP-EST KNIFE IN THE DRAWER
Stars forward Patrick Sharp potted a goal (1-0=1) on Sunday afternoon against the New York Islanders and now has points in nine consecutive games (6-6=12), the longest active point streak in the NHL and tied for the second-longest by any player in the NHL during the 2015-16 season. His nine-game point streak ties his career-best (7-6=13) previously set from Nov. 29 - Dec. 18, 2011 as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. Sharp currently ranks third on the club with 16 goals this season and ranks fourth in points (34) and assists (18). He currently shares third in the NHL with five game-winning goals this season, only three goals away from tying his career-best of eight game-winning tallies set during the 2011-12 campaign with the Blackhawks. The native of Winnipeg, Man. has five points (2-3=5) in his last seven games against the Rangers and has nine points (4-5=9) in 16 career games against them.