Dallas Stars (41-30-5, 87 pts) @ Edmonton Oilers (31-36-9, 71 pts)
8:30 PM CT, March 28, 2012
Rexall Place, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Tonight's game provides one thing for the Stars, a chance to get back on track. The loss to the Flames on Monday night was a big setback for the Stars in their playoff hopes. Calgary was supposed to be one of the last remaining easier games (though they were a desperate team) for the Stars in their final stretch of games, which is the toughest in the NHL. Instead of a win, Dallas was undone by costly turnovers and thoughtless penalties and found themselves on the wrong side of a 5-4 scoreline.
Tonight is the last of the "gimme" games for the Stars. The Oilers are one of the worst teams in the league and are dealing with injuries to significant players. If there was ever a crushing loss in a season, it would be if Dallas were to somehow lose tonight.
Dallas just needs to do one thing in this game, play smart. The Stars are a better team and need to play like it. Cut the penalties, limit the turnovers and don't leave the slot area wide open for opponents to skate through. The Stars just have to take of business tonight and not let the Oilers play the ultimate spoiler role. That comes down to one thing, the top line for Dallas. Mike Ribeiro has had a bad stretch of games in the past week and needs to return to form and provide some passes for Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder (if the lines stay the same that is). Jamie Benn will undoubtedly show up ready to go tonight so there's no worries there.
There are some injuries to deal with though. Mark Fistric is still out with his abdominal strain and it looks like Radek Dvorak (ankle) and Eric Nystrom (leg laceration) will be out tonight. Both are listed as questionable but I don't think they'll be in the lineup. That means a big opportunity for recent callup Reilly Smith. Smith could possibly see time with Jamie Benn and will immediately be a more effective scoring winger than Steve Ott or Adam Burish. The youngster has a ton of offensive skill and it will be fascinating to see what he does tonight.
Kari Lehtonen gets thrown into the frying pan again. He's 2-0-0 against the Oilers this season. He's only faced 38 shots combined in the two games and stopped 36 of them.
Notes and thoughts:
- Dallas is 19-16-2 on the road this year.
- It's critical that Dallas wins the game tonight. The next two games on the schedule are a back-to-back against the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks. There's no more room for slip-ups in games that the Stars should win (not that there are anymore to begin with).
- Dallas sits in seventh in the Western Conference coming into this game.
- Monday provided the first huge slip up for the penalty kill in a long time. Dallas allowed three power play goals in six tries. In the previous 14 games, the Stars had allowed a total of three power play goals.
- As a result of that poor showing, Dallas absolutely has to stay out of major penalty trouble tonight. The Oilers have the second best power play in the NHL (though they will be missing some players) and the third best on home ice. The last thing Dallas needs to do is get in their own way again.
more after the jump
Edmonton is out here for only one thing, to spoil someone's season. They're once again in the bottom five of the NHL and face another year of rebuilding and false hope. There's always an old rivalry that exists between Dallas and Edmonton and I'm sure that they would like nothing more than to deliver a crushing blow to the Stars.
Edmonton is returning from a four game road trip in which they won three of those four games (two of them by a 6-3 margin). They have some confidence growing and return to home ice tonight. Their last game was a 6-3 beatdown of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Edmonton has somehow won five of their last seven games, their best stretch since the very beginning of the season.
This isn't a game to look past for Dallas. There needs to be focus and a purpose in this game or Edmonton will take it.
They will be without one big piece, forward Taylor Hall (shoulder), while two others are listed as questionable: Shawn Horcoff (back) and Lennart Petrell (groin). Defenseman Theo Peckham is dealing with a concussion and will miss this game.
Hall is the second highest scorer on the team (in points and goals) and is one of the most important pieces of the power play. He has one goal in the three games this season.
The Oilers will be starting Devan Dubnyk tonight. It will be his first start against the Stars this year. He played against the Stars twice in his career back in the 2009-2010 season and gave up ten goals in those two starts. Who knows what you'll get from him tonight.
Notes and thoughts:
- Edmonton has allowed a power play goal in three of the last four games (15 of 18).
- Their power play has also fallen off a bit. They are 2 of 15 in the last six games.
- Edmonton has only scored one goal in each of the three games this season. Dallas needs to hold that defense again tonight. They've also managed to keep the shots low for the Oilers.
- Nov. 21 @ American Airlines Center: Dallas 4 - Edmonton 1
- Jan. 7 @ American Airlines Center: Dallas 4 - Edmonton 1
- March 2 @ Rexall Place: Dallas 3 - Edmonton 1
Dallas Edmonton Goals per game 3.7
1 Shots per game 28 21.3 Hits per game 28.3 26.7
PIM per game 6.3
6.3 Power Play 0 of 7 (0%) 0 of 8 (0%) Penalty Kill 8 of 8 (100%) 7 of 7 (100%)
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