Dallas Stars (15-10-1, 31 pts) @ San Jose Sharks (14-9-1, 29 pts)
9:30 PM CT, December 8, 2011
HP Pavilion, San Jose, California
The four day break between games for the Stars has done wonders for the team. Brenden Morrow, Trevor Daley and most importantly Alex Goligoski will be returning to the ice tonight, just in time for a big divisional game against the San Jose Sharks.
The Stars have missed the three, Goligoski especially, as the offense and the PP took a nosedive. Goose should be thrust right back into the point position on the PP so hopefully that gets things kickstarted again. The Stars just haven't been right with the man-advantage since Goose was injured. One interesting thing of note is that Goose will be paired with Philip Larsen, a guy that the Stars hope turns into a mini-Goligoski.
Tonight marks the start of a five game road-trip for the Stars, one that will take them from the West Coast to the East Coast. It couldn't start with a much bigger than this one as Dallas takes on a tough divisional foe.
Dallas is coming off a very odd 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders. The game included a second period where seven goals were scored as defense and goaltending took a nosedive. If they play a poor defensive game against the Sharks tonight, they'll get a severe beating from one of the most explosive teams in the league.
The Stars lost 4-1 in their last matchup against the Sharks, a game that was as physical as you'll ever see. There were a combined 100 PIM and the Stars were credited with 53 hits (53!). Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau got loose in that game they each dished out two assists. Dallas needs to stay disciplined tonight if they want any chance of winning this game.
San Jose, meanwhile, has been struggling as of late. They've lost four of their last five games and the only game that they won was in a shootout against the Montreal Canadiens. Their goaltending hasn't been good as they've given up 15 goals in that time span (three goals a game). The Sharks have allowed a power-play goal in three of those games and are only 64% (7 of 11) in stopping the opponents man advantage. The Sharks own power-play? Not that much better as they have gone 1 of 14 in the last five games.
The one thing that has been going in their advantage is their shot volume. San Jose has outshot or tied the opponent in four of the five games so expect Andrew Raycroft to be a busy bee tonight.
Andrew Raycroft should be the starting goalie tonight. Mark Fistric has been suspended three games and is serving his first game tonight. Adam Pardy should be moved into his spot. Adam Burish (broken hand) and Kari Lehtonen (groin) are still out.
The Sharks are without goalie Antero Niittymaki (hip) and have a couple of defensemen that are questionable: Douglas Murray (hand) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body).