Dallas Stars (10-3-0, 20 pts) @ Washington Capitals (9-3-0, 18 pts)
6:00 PM, November 8, 2011
Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia
The Stars face their toughest test of the season tonight when they travel to play the Washington Capitals. The Capitals are undefeated this year at home, going 6-0-0 and are the second highest scoring team in the league (3rd highest scoring team at home).
Washington, however, has struggled in their past week of games. They are coming off a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday, their third loss in their last five games. Aside from losing three games, they've also given up 5+ goals in three times and gotten outshot in four out of five. They've been losing, been outplayed and playing bad defense. If not for some heroics from Niklas Backstrom in during their game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Caps would have lost four out of their last five games.
The Stars should go into this game with a lot of confidence. They've won their last three games, scored 15 goals, gotten their power-play working, and the Eriksson-Benn-Ryder line is one of the hottest in the league. They started this tough four game road trip with a flourish in their 5-2 whipping of the Carolina Hurricanes and while Kari hasn't been as sharp as he was early in the season, he's still one of the best in the league at the moment.
The Stars have have had good success against Washington in recent years, winning two of the last three meetings. Each of the last four meetings have been decided by one goal, so expect another close game tonight between the two division leaders.
The one thing that Dallas should really worry about is their penalty taking situation. While they did win their last game 5-2, Dallas was on the penalty-kill nine, NINE, times and gave up two power-play goals. That makes four of their last five games in which they've given up a power-play goal. The Washington Capitals boast the 4th best power-play in the league so it is absolutely imperative that Dallas stays out of the penalty box.
Everyone knows about Alex Ovechkin, but he hasn't been the best player for Washington this season. Nicklas Backstrom has played like an MVP candidate one month into the season. He has 5 goals and 13 assists (tops in the NHL). He's the team leader in points by five over Ovechkin. Backstrom has been a demon on the power-play, leading the league in power-play assists with 9, one ahead of second place. He's tallied at least one point in 9 of his last 10 games. Dallas needs to get a body on this guy, especially on the PK, or else he will tear up the Stars.
Washington's starting goalie tonight will be Michal Neuvirth. He's 2-1-0 this season with a 2.96 GAA and a .902 save percentage. He started the game against the Stars last season and lost 2-1.
Dallas will be without Steve Ott (hip) once again.
Washington will be without D-men Mike Green (foot) and Tom Poti (groin) as well as F Jay Beagle (concussion).