Dallas Stars Morning Skate: Kari Lehtonen Back In Net Against Washington Capitals
With Alex Ovechkin's quest for a record an ever-present danger, the Stars will try to wrap up a short road trip in style tonight.
Despite his reported success against tennis ball shootout attempts from non-goaltenders, Tyler Seguin will not be making his goaltending debut for Dallas Stars tonight.
No, the Washington Captials will be shooting an actual puck, so the Stars highly skilled forward will be back in his usual place centering hockey soulmate Jamie Benn. Vernon Fiddler will be back on the fourth line as well rather than making saves with Kari Lehtonen's glove. But in terms of skaters, that's about all we know for sure right now.
The Stars morning skate was optional, which is a little unusual for a non-back-to-back game but certainly deserved given the team continues to play well. Given that, it was difficult to get a read on which forward might be scratched (my personal odds are on Travis Moen, but that's just spitballing) and which defenseman might get another night in the press box.
There was one part of the lineup revealed, though - the goaltending Finn of the night:
Kari Lehtonen expected in goal vs.Washington. He is 15-6-2 vs.Caps with 2.58, .923— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) November 19, 2015
The Stars haven't switched goalies after one game much this year, but this may be a matter of familiarity. Lehtonen has played the Capitals 23 times in his career while Niemi has seen them much less regularly, with just eight games played. And Niemi had a solid game against the Buffalo Sabres, who will come to the American Airlines Center on Saturday, so this may set him up to face them again.
Tonight's game is another opportunity for the Stars to expand upon their strong road play early this season though to be fair, they've been strong at home as well and would probably be strong in neutral site games if given the opportunity. One notable difference on the road has been the calmness in the overall team game, which shows up in the team defense. The Stars have averaged 2.3 goals against per game on the road and 2.8 at home.
"We were a good road team last year too," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "I think we just keep things simple, and when we play that way, it seems easier for us. We complicate things a little bit at home, or we have a tendency to, but when we just play the game in straight lights, we're pretty good."
Goligoski and his partner John Klingberg will face a large (pun intended) challenge tonight in the extremely dangerous Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin is still looking for the goal that will make him the highest-scoring Russian-born player in NHL history - he's appeared to score it twice but video review has not been his friend. Twenty six shots in the last four games, while he's been sitting on a tie for the record, shows just how hard he's trying to get there.
In amusing news, the Capitals media crew was apparently treated to a 1990s country music bonanza today with the Shania Twain locker room music. Y'all can make your own bets on who commandeered the music selection, but the always amazing Russian Machine Never Breaks has the full breakdown of song choices.
(Side note - Tyler Seguin mentioned in his weekly Wednesday radio show that the team does have a victory song, but he declined to reveal what it is. Given the last team victory song I can remember was "I Love This Bar" back during the Bill Guerin era, and given the game MVP cowboy hat, I would be delighted if it was some ridiculously cheesy 1990s country thing. Don't let me down, Fiddler.)
Here is Razor previewing the game in moving pictures: