Last week, the Dallas Stars looked like a team on the rise, beating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 to extend their winning streak to four games. One week later, after a case of the “Vegas Flu” and 20 minutes of (good) hockey against the Anaheim Ducks, the team faces the second night of a back-to-back with a myriad of questions.
Their platoon of AHL defenders, who have spent much of the time overachieving since John Klingberg took an Evander Kane shot to the wrist, suddenly looked like AHL defenders Wednesday night. An energetic second period was surrounded by a morass of puck watching and ineffective chasing, giving Dallas their second loss on this four game road trip to date.
Dallas won both meetings against Anaheim in Dallas and looked good doing it, so it’s understandable that the Ducks came out with an edge to their game last night. That, combined with the Stars’ on poor play, contributed to the loss.
They’ll face a similar situation tonight when they take on the Sharks (for seemingly the millionth time this season).
The Stars have beaten the Sharks twice at the American Airlines Center this season, and tonight’s game will close out their regular season meetings with the guys in teal. The nature of those wins, however, is of some concern.
In both games, the Sharks handily outshot the Stars, and in both games it took some third period heroics from secondary scorers (Devin Shore and Brett Ritchie with the game winning goals) to pull out the victory.
Secondary scoring, in fact scoring in general, has been an issue on the road all season. Those late period heroics have been harder to manufacture away from home ice this season.
Facing the Sharks, the news is not all bad. Compared to John Gibson, Martin Jones has been surprisingly human.
Whatever happened to Martin Jones was before the end of last season, by the look of it. pic.twitter.com/Zeg6bNRR3w— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) December 13, 2018
In addition, Joe Thornton is a game time decision, so there is the possibility that the Sharks may need to shuffle a lineup that has been relatively stable for the year. If Jumbo Joe can’t go, recent call-up Rourke Chartier may draw in.
San Jose Sharks Lineup
Evander Kane - Joe Pavelski - Joonas Donskoi
Logan Couture - Tomas Hertl - Timo Meier
Marcus Sorensen - Joe Thornton - Kevin Labanc
Melker Karlsson - Barclay Goodrow - Lukas Radil
Brenden Dillon - Erik Karlsson
Radim Simek - Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Devin Shore - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Valeri Nichushkin - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Blake Comeau
Esa Lindell - Taylor Fedun
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Joel Hanley - Julius Honka
Per The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro, the defensive pairings are still to be determined, however the expectation is that a lefty-righty balance will be maintained. Also, expect Gavin Bayreuther to draw back in on Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche as he gets a night of rest tonight after a tough game last night.
Keys to the Game
The Sharks have outplayed the Stars in both games this year, with nothing to show for it. They’ll be motivated to finally score a win, and the Stars have shown that it’s hard for them to score on the road this year in general.
In other words, Anton Khudobin may need to steal one tonight.
The Stars’ powerplay has back-to-back two goal games for the first time this season, which is a positive trend Dallas can absolutely use (please continue the trend). Zone entries remain a problem, but recent changes to the makeup of the units appears to be paying off. Tonight, the Stars special teams could be the difference maker.
The Shark Tank has a history of being less than hospitable to Dallas, much like Honda Center was to the Stars last night. They’ll be rested, too, as Dallas traveled from southern California after last night’s game. Their dominance in shot share and rest will be key components of the Sharks’ ability to pounce on the Stars early (and hopefully not often, if you’re a Stars fan).
This is in no way an exhaustive list. The contrarian in me says take the Stars.
DID YOU KNOW? Brent Burns will make more money tonight than the entire Stars blueline combined.