Dallas Stars (33-26-5, 71 pts) @ Edmonton Oilers (25-32-6, 56 pts)
8:30 PM CT, March 2, 2012
Rexall Place, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Dallas has to be coming into this game riding a wave of confidence. Despite losing the last game 4-3 in a shootout against the Penguins (in the most exciting game of the season), the Stars showed a lot of toughness and moxie by not backing down in that game. Dallas has gotten at least a point in five straight games now and enters tonight in a very winnable game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Tonight marks a big chance for Dallas to put some miniscule distance away from the teams behind them in the playoff race. Dallas has 71 points, one ahead of the LA Kings and Colorado Avs. A win tonight would put Dallas in a tie with the San Jose Sharks for seventh place in the West. It's the first game in a three game Western Canada road trip for the Stars. They will also play Calgary and Vancouver in the coming days.
This Stars team is playing as well as they have all season. There's an energy there that was missing for most of the past couple of months and all four lines have been clicking. The line of Eriksson-Ribeiro-Ryder has been one of the hottest in the entire league and the addition of Ryan Garbutt to the lineup has really energized the fourth line. He and Vincour have been wrecking balls on the forecheck.
The key for tonight's game will be to continue to work the boards. Dallas won the previous two games by dominating the run of play and keeping control of the puck. Oilers leading scorer Jordan Eberle has been held to only 1 assist and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins has 1 goal (he missed the second game with an injury). Dallas has to be able to control the speed of the Oilers young forward core or Kari Lehtonen will be facing point blank shots all night.
Kari Lehtonen will be getting the start tonight. He is 5-2-0 in his career against the Oilers with a 2.44 GAA and a .918 save percentage. He only started one of the two games in the season series so far. He stopped 17 of 18 shots in that game (a 4-1 win).
Dallas is still without the services of Brenden Morrow (neck/shoulder/back) and Jake Dowell (broken finger).
Notes and thoughts:
- Dallas is 15-14-2 on the road this season. They have won the last two road games by a combined 6-1 score.
- Dallas won both matchups 4-1. Both games were in Dallas.
- Loui Eriksson has 4 assists in the season series so far. Jamie Benn has 2 goals while Mike Ribeiro also has 2 goals and 1 assist.
- The Stars PK is 17 of 18 in the last five games. Their PP in that time is 1 of 9.
- Dallas had four PP opportunities in the last game. It's only the second time in the last nine games that the Stars have had more than two PP chances in one game.
- Michael Ryder has at least a point in ten of the last eleven games (7 goals, 4 assists).
- Mike Ribeiro has at least a point in eight straight games (3 goals, 8 assists).
- Loui Eriksson has at least a point in nine of the last eleven games (4 goals, 9 assists).
more after the jump
The Oilers are...well... they're the Oilers. Edmonton is once again on the lower end of the NHL totem pole this season, despite having some good peripheral numbers. Edmonton has actually had a bit of a winning streak lately, winning three of the last five games (though the two losses have both come in the last three games).
Jordan Eberle has been Mr.Everything for the Oilers this year. He leads the team in goals (28), assists (33) and points (61). His 61 points are 12 more than second place on the team (Taylor Hall).
The Oilers have been rolling with backup goalie Devan Dubnyk while starter Nikolai Khabibulin has been out with a groin injury. Khabibulin is finally healthy though and has been cleared to play in this game. I'm expecting him to start because Dubynk was pulled in the last game he played. He's lost five of the last six games against the Stars.
The Oilers will be without defenseman Taylor Fedun due to a leg injury.
Notes and thoughts:
- Edmonton is 16-12-4 at home this season.
- Edmonton Oilers rankings coming into this game. 14th in goals per game, 25th in goals against, 1st in PP% and 14th in PK%.
- In the last five games, the Oilers are 4 of 10 on the PP. In the last 10 games, the Oilers are 23 of 30 on the PK.
- Edmonton has the second best home PP percentage at 23.7%. They have 27 PP goals, tied for second and behind the Winnipeg Jets (29 PP goals).
- Edmonton is one of the most heavily penalized teams in the league. They've taken 122 penalties at home (tied for fourth most in the NHL). That could end up with a lot of PP chances for the Stars.
- The Oilers have the worst record in the NHL when leading after one period. They are 9-5-3 (.529 win percentage) when leading after one period.
- Taylor Hall has a five game point streak (3 goals, 4 assists).