Antti Niemi has been nearly unstoppable in American Airlines Center this fall, so it will be no surprise when the Dallas Stars start him in net against the New York Rangers tonight.
But the Rangers have faced some goalie controversy of their own this month after head coach Alain Vigneault healthy-scratched his marquee name, Henrik Lundqvist, in favor of the hotter hand in Antti Raanta. Mike Heika takes a closer look:
While Dallas is deploying [Niemi] and Kari Lehtonen in a different manner than they did last year -- letting Lehtonen get five straight starts over the previous two weeks and switching to Niemi for a home start Tuesday -- the New York Rangers come to town with their own version of the goalie shuffle. The Rangers sat [Lundqvist] for four straight games -- the longest stretch of consecutive back-up work in his career.
"I think the compressed schedule has affected a lot of teams," said Stars goalie coach Jeff Reese. "You need both guys to be able to play and both guys to be able to get rest. We're still working on that."
The Stars’ balancing act may be a work in progress, but progress does seem to be evident:
On Tuesday, Niemi was the first star of the game as he made 34 saves and led Dallas to a 6-2 win over Anaheim. Over the weekend, Lehtonen made some spectacular saves and was still saddled with two losses. It's been a tough season, and yet the eye test says the goalies could actually be better than last season.
"Kari I thought had a really nice run and I think he went 2-4," Reese said. "A bounce here and a bounce there, and he could have easily been 4-2. That's the thing that I think that bothers them more than anything, we aren't winning as many games. That's the only stat that really matters to them."
There’s always more at Mike’s place. (Don’t forget to clear your cookies.) [SportsDayDFW]
Over at DBD’s Manhattan cousin’s house, they’re talking about the shock horror of sitting Lundqvist. (I could come up with some line about how when you come for the King you better not blah blah blah, but let’s face it, you’ve already filled in that blank yourself.)
Alain Vigneault Is Good At Creating Controversy And Bad At Controlling It https://t.co/2WOa0n9pad— Joe Fortunato (@BlueshirtBanter) December 13, 2016
Is the Metropolitan the new #MurderDeathKill Division? Met teams now hold down four of the five top spots in the latest NHL Power Rankings. [The Hockey News]
Also at THN: Future Hall of Famer and oncoming UFA Jarome Iginla is still pursuing the prize that matters most. Sean McIndoe picks five destinations – including Dallas – where he might finally hoist the Stanley Cup in a new Down Goes Brown. (Because let’s face it, this storyline kind of writes itself.)
It was all but silent in last night’s Central action: The Colorado Avalanche couldn’t hold off the white-hot Philadelphia Flyers, who grabbed their 10th consecutive win, 4-3. [Mile High Hockey]
Los Angeles Kings alternate captain Jeff Carter has called out his entire team publicly for their current struggles (as of this writing, tied with the Stars and the Minnesota Wild).
Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers saga rolls on: GM Dale Tallon is back in charge of the team’s day-to-day operations, at least for now.
Ottawa Senators LW Clarke MacArthur has missed most of two years of play after suffering four documented concussions within the space of 18 months (the most recent in a high-profile training camp incident involving Sens prospect Patrick Sieloff). Now he has one last hurdle to clear before he returns: a full-body “neuro-psych” exam that will test both his physical and neurological reactions. [Ottawa Citizen]
The NHL has big plans for its upcoming centennial, including a Traveling Fan Arena showcasing some of the first 100 years’ greatest players and moments (and a Zamboni VR experience). Check out the preview video.
You probably read in Shawn’s Wednesday Links that Alan Thicke passed away earlier this week while playing hockey with his son. Thicke wasn’t just any lifelong NHL fan, as Gary Bettman attested in his statement yesterday.
Commissioner Bettman statement on the passing of Alan Thicke. pic.twitter.com/krZgX69ubq— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 14, 2016
This Friday, it’s the Texas Stars’ turn to do the Teddy Bear Toss. It will be the first night of a back-to-back with the league-leading Milwaukee Admirals in H-E-B Center.
Finally: The Dallas Stars Foundation is finding new ways to invest its 50/50 Raffle windfalls, and help is coming from interesting places. Here are Curtis McKenzie and Devin Shore designing a fantasy playground with the kids of Youth World. Enjoy.