Preview: Dallas Stars Look for First Series Win Since 2008 Against Minnesota Wild (8:30pm CDT)
Television says this one starts at 8:30 or 8:42 tonight on NBCSN nationally- Fox Sports Southwest with Razor and Dave locally.
Dallas Stars fans got a glimpse into the future last night on NBC Sports Network. There were the St. Louis Blues, up three games to the Chicago Blackhawks' one, with a chance to close a series out.
The alternative- A gut-wrenching game six in the opponent's barn with a chance to push them to a coin flip in game seven. The Blues' fate? A double overtime loss at the hands of Patrick Kane, and a trip back to Chicago.
The Minnesota Wild will no-doubt draw inspiration from that tonight as they attempt to duplicate Chicago's heroics. The Stars, if they can avoid that, could get an extra day off or two with a win tonight.
But that fourth one is always the toughest. The third one wasn't all that pretty either, come to think of it.
When challenged with the fact that some things went against them in the stats department Wednesday night in game four Stars head coach Lindy Ruff rebuffed the idea a little-
"All my stats were in our favor- Scoring chances, special teams," he told media. 'So statistically for me we had the edge, we should win the game.:
That they did, despite being out-attempted 56-51 Wednesday after ending up on the short end of the stick 54-47 on Wednesday. In game four's final 15 minutes the Stars managed to throw just four pucks toward Dubnyk. That's not shots on goal. That's total shot attempts.
So there's room for improvement there. Returning home helps them with that, and it will be interesting to see what he does with the lines after combining Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza at times in Minnesota.
"Yeah, I think that there's two things there," Ruff said of the consequences of putting the potency in one place- "That you put all your eggs in one basket- It's a little easier for the other team to take care of that. At the same time, I get the last look at line changes tomorrow night."
We've seen the "super line" before with Spezza, Seguin and Benn, so it would not stretch the imagination to think he'll continue to explore Benn with Spezza when he has last change, if nothing else than to give his captain a little room out there as opponents have to respect #90 as well.
"I think he gets a lot of attention and he deals with it very well," Jason Spezza told media after the game. "Look at my goal, he's dragging three guys with him, he knows I'm coming late, and he makes a perfect pass."
Consolidating the offensive talent and matching up might have to continue to do- Tyler Seguin does not appear to be imminently due in his return. He did not travel with the team and is not practicing. His injury is undisclosed, and depending on which quote you read, possibly related to his Achilles injury but maybe not.
Like the other 86 game previews before this one, here there will be little speculation on a starting netminder for Dallas. Antti Niemi was brilliant in game four. Kari Lehtonen was brilliant in game two. The two-head goalie monster rolls on, inexplicable to the new-comer media, but the same entity that combined for 50 wins this season.
The players feel comfortable with both guys, and that's what counts right now.
There's been little news of impending change from the Wild camp. They're looking for Haula's line to continue to battle the Stars' scoring threats. They're looking for Dubnyk to steal a game for them. They're looking for their second win in their last 10 games tonight.
"We're going to have to win a game in their building at some point anyway," Dubnyk told media Thursday, "so it's going to have to be [Friday]. If we put our game together that we had on home ice, we'll give ourselves a real good chance.
Probably more than one game in the Stars building.
Either way, it's this series' first elimination game this evening, and the first chance you, dear Stars fan, have had an opportunity to watch a potential series clinching victory since...Robidas to Morrow in 4OT.
From Stars PR:
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
The Dallas Stars escaped Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday night with a 3-2 win over the Wild to take a 3-1 series lead in the First Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After a scoreless first period, the Stars and Wild tallied all of the game's five goals during the second period. Forward Ales Hemsky potted a power play goal (1-0=1) to tie the game at 1-1 in the middle of the period. Forward Patrick Eaves (1-0=1) knotted the game at 2-2 with a power play tally and forward Jason Spezza (1-1=2) registered the game-winning goal with a little over one minute left to play in the second period. Dallas' special teams were perfect on the evening, converting both power play opportunities (2-of-2) and killing off all three of the Wild's chances with the man advantage (3-for-3). Goaltender Antti Niemi made his first start of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, stopping 28-of-30 shots to record his first playoff victory in a Stars uniform and his first postseason win since April 22, 2014 as a member of the San Jose Sharks.
BENN THERE, DONE THAT
Stars captain Jamie Benn registered an assist (0-1=1) in Game 4 against the Wild on Wednesday night and has points in four consecutive postseason games (2-4=6). According to Elias Sports Bureau, with his assist last night, Benn became the first player in franchise history to register at least one point in nine of his first 10 career playoff games (6-5=11). Benn shares fifth in the NHL with six points (2-4=6) during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and is tied for third with four assists. In Game 1, he recorded a postseason career-high of three points (1-2=3), marking his first career multi-point playoff game. The native of Victoria, B.C. finished the 2015-16 season with a career-high 89 points (41-48=89), including a career-high 41 goals and appearing in all 82 games. Benn ranked second in the league in points (89) and third in goals (41), recording the second-most goals in a single season since the team moved to Dallas, while matching the 11th-most in franchise history.
SPEZZ IS MORE
Forward Jason Spezza tallied two points (1-1=2) on Wednesday against Minnesota for his second multi-point game of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the 17th multi-point outing of his NHL postseason career. The forward has recorded 56 points (19-37=56) over 60 Stanley Cup Playoff games in his career and currently shares 13th among all skaters in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs with four points. During the 2015-16 regular season, Spezza finished tied for 10th in the NHL and tied for second on the Stars with 33 goals. His 33 goals marked his fifth career 30+ goal season and the first time in his 13-year career where he finished a season with more goals than assists. The native of Toronto, Ont. ranked third on the squad with 63 points (33-30=33) in 75 games and tallied a career-high seven game-winning goals this season, ranking first on the club and sharing 11th in the NHL. Spezza finished with 20 points (14-6=20) over his last 20 regular-season games, including points in five of his last six games (4-4=8).
ALES IN WONDERLAND
Stars forward Ales Hemsky notched a goal (1-0=1) in Game 4 against the Wild and now has points in three of his four games during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs (1-2=3). Hemsky's goal on Wednesday night marked his first postseason tally since he registered a goal (1-1=2) in Game 5 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final on June 14, 2006 with Edmonton. In 34 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, he has recorded 20 points (7-13=20). During the 2015-16 regular season, he posted 39 points (13-26=39) in 75 games, ranking sixth on the Stars with 39 points, and seventh with 13 goals and 26 assists. Hemsky registered a season-high six-game point streak (2-5=7) from March 19 - 31, his longest since he recorded points in a career-best eight consecutive games from Nov. 18 - Dec. 6, 2008 as a member of the Edmonton Oilers (4-7=11). The native of Pardubice, Czech Republic finished the 2015-16 regular season with 15 points (4-11=15) in the last 16 games.