[Editor’s Note: We welcome Mark Zimmerman to the Defending Big D contingent, as he makes his season debut with this preview of tonight’s game. A long-time Stars fan, Mark is based on the west coast and unfortunately has to hear a lot about the Ducks everyday.]
The Honda Center has not been a friendly place for the Dallas Stars of late. In fact, the last time that the Stars won in Anaheim was April 5, 2015 when Jhonas Enroth posted his lone shutout for the team.
Statistically, the Stars have had two of their most productive offensive games of the season against the Ducks, averaging 46 shots per game while giving up just 25. The October 13th game featured one of the most dominant periods in recent memory.
The Stars have had three days to work through the disappointing details of Sunday night’s performance against the Vegas Golden Knights. Special teams let the team down in the clutch, with the power play unable to take advantage of a late 3rd period double minor courtesy of Taylor Fedun’s chin. Officially, the Stars were 2-for-4 on the job, but the earlier success of the second unit was overshadowed by a lackluster effort as the clock wore down.
Likewise, the penalty kill officially gave up a short handed empty netter, but the real story was 2 goals within 10 seconds after the teams returned to 5-on-5. The beefy part of the lineup took some loose offensive zone penalties and the Knights took advantage of their opportunities.
The Ducks team that Dallas will face looks significantly different than the one iced during the two games in October. While the injury carousel has continued, the Ducks have recently been able to patch together a lineup that, in spite of its statistical weaknesses, has continued to bank points.
Offensively, the Ducks are led by a first line of waiver claim Pontus Aberg with 10 goals, Ryan Getzlaf (8G, 16A), and Ondrej Kase, whose return from injury has correlated strongly with a pickup in scoring for the team. Daniel Sprong was recently brought in from Pittsburgh, where he’d been Honka’d, to try to jump start the offense.
Defensively, the Ducks have pieced together a reasonable top two pairs with Jacob Larsson filling in for the injured Cam Fowler. The Ducks brought in Andrej Sustr/Luke Schenn to be a west coast version of Roman Polak, but without the pleasant surprise. They have joined the rest of the this pair on an I-5 express between Orange County and the Gulls in San Diego.
- Rickard Rakell - second on the Ducks with 20 points (5G, 15A) is out for an undisclosed amount of time with a sprained ankle
- Ex-Star Patrick Eaves is back on Injured Reserve with a broken rib and back spasms after playing 5 games
- Ducks claimed Chad Johnson off of waivers from St. Louis after backup Ryan Miller went on injured reserve. Miller is expected to miss at least six weeks with a MCL sprain. At the time of the claim, it was unclear just how long Miller was going to miss as his injury looked like it could have been much worse than a sprain.
- In a minor league transaction, Ducks acquired ex-Star Adam Cracknell from the Maple Leafs
Dallas Stars Lineup
Devin Shore - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Martin Hanzal - Jason Spezza
Valeri Nichushkin - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Blake Comeau
Esa Lindell - Miro Heiskanen
Gavin Bayreuther - Roman Polak
Joel Hanley - Taylor Fedun
Anaheim Ducks Lineup
Ondrej Kase - Ryan Getzlaf - Pontus Aberg
Nick Ritchie - Adam Henrique - Daniel Sprong
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
Brian Gibbons - Carter Rowney - Kiefer Sherwood
Hampus Lindholm - Brandon Montour
Jacob Larsson - Josh Manson
Andrej Sustr - Jake Dotchin
Keys to the Game
John Gibson has been ambushed in both games against the Stars this year. Expect him to come out focused and ready. In both prior games, the Stars have worn Gibson down, but if they get off to a slow start and he gets into a zone, it could be a long, frustrating night.
Jamie Benn and Ryan Getzlaf are two of the most dominant skilled power players in the game. Expect both to set a physical tone early. Both teams tend to follow their leaders, and with two blowout losses in the first 30 games, expect the Ducks to come out with an edge.
The Star’s depth has made a difference in both games this year. Dallas needs to take advantage of of the Ducks’ fourth line and third pairing, and play the top of the lineup straight up. Jason Dickinson’s line could be the difference.