Game Preview: Dallas Stars @ Montreal Canadiens (6:30 CST)
Game (back) on! Dallas seeks their first win in Montreal since the 2011-2012 season.
So, err, where were we?
The players are rested, the NHL and NFL are done trying to out-grotesque each other with All-Star jerseys, and the Dallas Stars find themselves four points back from where they want to be with 21 of their final 36 to play on the road.
A tall order -- but Lindy Ruff was generally pleased with the way his team had been playing heading into the break.
"I really like the way we've been playing, and we've been playing well for a good stretch," Ruff told the media. "That last loss at home hurt but I felt we had the edge in play. We've been moving our way up and we've got to keep on moving."
The loss to which he refers was a painful 3-1 decision against the Bruins, whom the Stars out-shot 37-27, going 0-for-6 on the power play.
There was a bit of good news out of practice Tuesday. Patrick Eaves, Brett Ritchie, and most importantly of all, Trevor Daley are all a good bet to return from injury this evening after enjoying a week off.
Former Canadien Erik Cole will not return, but did skate and is not expected to be out as long as was originally feared, though no significant level of detail has been shared. The Stars wade into the season's second half with still no expectation of when or if Valeri Nichushkin, Rich Peverley or Patrik Nemeth will return.
Tyler Seguin went directly from Columbus to Montreal. The Stars ran these lines without him in practice Monday:
Jamie Benn - Shawn Horcoff - Brett Ritchie
Patrick Eaves - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt
Travis Moen - Vernon Fiddler - Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg
David Schlemko - Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn - Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka - Jamie Oleksiak
If Daley can return, Jokipakka or Oleksiak would need to be returned to Texas to continue getting playing time.
Then there are the Canadiens, who will resume a three-game home stand after the conclusion of the break that featured Carey Price and rookie Jiri Sekac in Columbus.
I tire of saying this -- because how can there be this many teams in the league, not to mention on the Stars' schedule -- but the Montreal Canadiens are about the hottest team in the NHL right now. They are 12-3-1 in their last 16 since falling to Dallas 4-1 at American Airlines Center.
In fact, the Stars' three opponents on this road swing are a combined 18-8-4 over their last 10 games stretches.
Dallas? They've dropped six of ten.
Montreal finds themselves three points back of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first overall in the Eastern Conference, and by point percentage they're 2nd overall in the East to the Islanders, and 4th in the league overall.
Why? Defense and goaltending: 4th in the league at 2.33 GA/G. Which doesn't mean they can't win a race -- they put six on the Islanders at home on the 17th. That versatility has them cruising. Well, that and Carey Price.
The All-Star netminder spent the weekend with Tyler Seguin in Columbus and now returns to action as the fifth ranked goaltender in the NHL in GAA (2.15) with the fifth ranked save percentage (.929) and fourth most wins (24). The Stars managed just one against him at even-strength in their December meeting.
Their lineup, or something like it:
PA Parenteau is out with a concussion -- but he has just 15 points in 40 games with a -5. They're led by Max Pacioretty's 38 points, Plekanec's 32 and P.K. Subban's 31 from the back end. Pacioretty ranks 5th in the league with 164 shots on goal. Subban is 7th with 25:51 played per outing.
From Stars PR:
The Dallas Stars travel to Canada for a Tuesday night contest against Montreal and open a three-game Canadian road trip. This marks the second and final game of the season between Dallas and Montreal, with the Stars winning the first meeting 4-1 at American Airlines Center on Dec. 6. Tyler Seguin recorded three points (2-1=3), captain Jamie Benn added two points (0-2=2) and Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt each added a goal. The Stars are looking to gain a victory at the Bell Centre for first time since the 2011-12 season and win two games in a season against the Canadiens for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign.