Dallas Stars (24-18-1, 49 pts) @ St. Louis Blues (26-12-6, 58 pts)
6:30 PM CT, January 16, 2012
Scottrade Center, St. Louis, Missouri
Oh boy, we have gut check time now for the Stars. With the news coming out yesterday that Mike Ribeiro would be out until the All-Star break and Jamie Benn needing an emergency appendectomy (and subsequently missing at least 10 days and up to 2 weeks), Dallas suddenly finds themselves in dire straits as they try to stay in the playoff hunt.
Even worse for the team? The flu is making its way through the players and many of the guys are sick. Dallas was forced to recall winger Francis Wathier from the Texas Stars just so they might have enough healthy bodies to play in this game. The only saving grace to all of this is that it comes with the All-Star break looming, so it's possible that Dallas will only be without their top 2 centers for only the next 5 games. It's pure survival mode now.
The obvious big question is where (and who) do the Stars turn to now? The Dvorak-Fiddler-Nystrom line now might be the number one option as Dallas tries to figure out the center rotation. I would assume that Tom Wandell sticks with Morrow and Eriksson as he usually has when Ribs is out with injury. The guy stepping into Benn's spot provides a bigger issue.
The possible replacements? Toby Peterson, Jake Dowell, a whenever-he's-healthy Tomas Vincour or perhaps even moving Steve Ott back to center. Otter takes enough face-offs anyway so he might as well move back to center and perhaps use Burish or Wathier as the other winger besides Ryder. No matter which way you cut it, the results are not pretty. These next 5 games could decide the playoff future of this team. Dallas cannot afford to drop points with the race as tight as it is.
Dallas will be missing the aforementioned Benn (appendectomy), Ribeiro (knee) and Vincour (knee). Philip Larsen is also out due to a concussion.
As for the starting goalie, it could be either Lehtonen or Richard Bachman tonight. With a back-to-back with the Blues tonight and the Red Wings tomorrow, the two goalies will split these next two games.
more after the jump
Dallas gets no breaks tonight as they face the iron wall known as the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are one of the best defensive teams in the league, thanks to Ken Hitchcock's system and the goaltending duo of Jaroslav Halak and the shockingly good Brian Elliott (seriously, where the hell did he come from). With the way their goalie rotation works, it should be Elliott's turn tonight so Dallas gets the tougher of the two.
Elliott is 15-5-1 this season with a 1.68 GAA and a .937 SV%. Five of his wins are shutouts, only behind Jonathan Quick for the league lead. Elliott has had a bit of trouble lately though, so Dallas could be getting him in a slump. In his last 6 games Elliott is 2-3-1 so in the last month he's more than doubled his losses (even if it's just up to 5).
As a team though, the Blues are on a roll, winning 5 of their 6 games this month. Their only loss was an overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks. They've been overwhelming teams in the shot statistic so whoever is in net tonight for Dallas should expect a heavy workload. They've outshot the opponent in 5 of the 6 games this month by an average of 13 shots a game.
There's a couple of guys to watch out for on this team but the guy on a roll right now is defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. He's on a six-game point streak where he has 2 goals and 7 assists. 5 of those 9 points have come on the power-play.
The Blues are without defensemen Kris Russell (groin), Kent Huskins (ankle) and forward Andy McDonald (concussion). Alexander Steen (concussion) could make his return to the Blues' lineup tonight. He's missed the past 8 games but is still fourth on the team in points and second on the team in goals.
Notes and thoughts:
- Dallas is 11-10-0 on the road this year. The Blues are a league best 18-3-3 at home. They are 10-0-2 in the last 12 at home soooooo this could go badly for Dallas.
- The home penalty kill has been pretty bad for St. Louis. Only three teams have allowed more PP goals on home ice. They've allowed at least 1 PP goal in four of the last five home games.
- The Blues have also scored a PP goal in four of the last five home games so they're making up for their PK deficiencies. The last time they played the Stars, they were 2 for 2 on the PP and 2 for 2 on the PK.
- Dallas needs some help on the PK. The Stars have allowed four PP goals in the last two games.