Tuesday night's game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center will definitely be a study in contrasts. Bruce Boudreau's Anaheim club (18-22-7, 43 points) heads into their final game before the All-Star break on a five-game winning streak and the Ducks are 8-1-1 over their last 10 contests.
Dallas (24-21-2, 50 points) however is trending the opposite way. The Stars are currently on a five-game winless streak and head into Tuesday's game after a 5-2 loss at Minnesota on Saturday night.
These clubs have already met this month and it was the Ducks coming away with a 5-2 win at the Honda Center back on Jan. 10. But Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan knows much has changed since the last time Anaheim and Dallas squared off in Orange County.
"I just think their big guys are playing. Teemu Selanne when we were in there, had a real good night. (Ryan) Getzlaf in Edmonton had four assists and then Bobby Ryan had a couple. Now instead of what they were going through, those guys are playing," Gulutzan said.
But considering the Ducks made a coaching change earlier this year, letting Randy Carlyle go in favor of Bruce Boudreau, who was himself let go in Washington, the man behind the Dallas bench knew it would take time for the Ducks players to adjust to the regime change.
"Bruce (Boudreau) obviously has them believing and going, so I think he's done a really good job. He comes in there, takes a while to change," Gulutzan said. "As a coach, you get one practice day a week. It takes a while, two, three, four weeks before you can say that that's your team. Yeah, they're believing. I think their goaltending's playing well too."
Stars All-Star center Jamie Benn will miss a fifth straight game after having his appendix out about one week ago, but Dallas could get a huge boost from the possible return of fellow centerman Mike Ribeiro, who has missed the last seven games with a knee injury.
"I don't know yet," Ribeiro said after practice on Monday. "Practiced today but guess we'll see after the morning skate. Pushed it a little bit today, see how it reacts tomorrow. After the morning skate, I should know really where I'm at and if I'm capable of playing."
Gulutzan also weighed in on the veteran center's status for Tuesday. "Yeah, Ribeiro is pretty close. So we'll have to revaluate tomorrow morning on Ribbie," he said. "He practiced today, got through, had some ice on his knee and probably get a little ride (on the stationary bike) in, so we'll see how he is for tomorrow."
Should Dallas get Ribeiro back, his teammates definitely realize what a big lift it would be for them against a formidable foe like the Ducks.
"It's going to be a huge lift. When he (Ribeiro) went out, he was playing his best hockey I think of the season. Those four games before there, he was playing some great hockey," Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley said. "Ribbie's the type of guy when he's going, he's an elite player. He's capable of doing that. To have an elite player coming into our lineup is going to be huge for us."
However, one player who will not be on the ice for Dallas on Tuesday is captain Brenden Morrow, who will sit with a neck injury. However, his ailment is not considered to be a long-term thing.
Veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas will skate Tuesday and play but he continues to be bothered by a broken foot suffered earlier this year when he took a puck off a skate during practice.
Rookie forward Matt Fraser, who was recalled from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League on Sunday, figures to make his NHL debut against the Ducks. In 40 games in the AHL, Fraser had 35 points (21-14-35).
"Yeah, Fraser'll be a go for us tomorrow. I believe so, play on that line with (Vincour)," Gulutzan said. "I haven't seen him play but I've had discussions and read all the reports. He's a real attentive kid and he's got a great shot. I think he's got 21 (goals) in the minors. He's in the All-Star Game there (in the AHL) so he's doing well for himself and he's deserved an opportunity."
Not only will Tuesday's game be the last Stars game before the break, but it will also be Steve Ott Bobblehead Night as the first 10,000 fans in the doors at the AAC will get a keepsake featuring one of the bigger Dallas fan favorites.
"I think it's pretty fun," Ott said of having his own bobblehead. "Gives the fans a little treat to come to our games as well. The other ones, Morrow and Ribbie's, were pretty good as well. It's just a small, little token and fun for our fans."
And the gritty center agrees it's pretty fitting that his bobblehead shows him doing something he's known fairly well for, dropping the gloves. "I think they'd had a couple of designs. Actually, I could probably use one for scoring right now rather than fighting but it's good for the kids and a fun, little toy," Ott said.