Preview: Stars at Oilers
Wednesday, November 13 @ 9 pm TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
The Stars (6-7-2) again hit the road, to face the Edmonton Oilers (4-13-2) in Edmonton Wednesday night, after enjoying 3 days off following a tough loss to the Blackhawks. The Stars head into the game with 18 points - 11th place in the Western Division. Edmonton is dead last, with (10) points.
After a difficult loss to Chicago, coach Lindy Ruff admitted, "I thought we did a lot of great things in the game. We had more puck possession, we outskated them, a lot of times outworked them." He concluded simply, "We chose to pass up some good opportunities. We didn't finish. At the end we gave the game away. And that hurts."
Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen is experiencing the best start of his career - a 2.18 GAA (goals-against average) and .928S% (save percentage) are easily his career best. It's no surprise that Lehtonen has stolen wins for the Stars. However, it's time for the skaters to step up, and improve the quality of their play - continually relying on a goalie to bail you out can easily result in an injured goalie.
Dallas wing Jamie Benn and center Tyler Seguin are enjoying a blossoming friendship, and seem to be competing with each another in the top scorer race. The two flip between 1st and 2nd every game. Add in Alex Chiasson, Cody Eakin, and others, and Dallas has the potential to have an explosive offense.These four will have to be mentally sharp and on their games to beat Bryzgalov. The loss of defenseman Ladislav Smid will make this easier than on previous occasions, but that's no reason to sit back on their heels; rather, all the more reason to attack the net even harder. Hopefully tonight, the team will make better choices.
GOALS: Tyler Seguin (7), Jamie Benn (6), Alex Chiasson & Cody Eakin (5)
ASSISTS: Jamie Benn (10), Tyler Seguin (9), Ray Whitney (7)
POINTS: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin (16), Alex Chiasson (11)
SHOTS: Jamie Benn (56), Alex Chiasson (51), Tyler Seguin (43)
Lehtonen @ Oilers - Career W/L: 5-1-0 GAA: 1.83 SV%: .939 (11 goals on 179 shots)
Ray Whitney - lower body
With the second-least points in the league (Buffalo is last), one quarter of the way through the season, the Oilers GM Craig MacTavish is trying to shake things up, with a surprise trade with arch-rival Calgary. He sent shutdown defenceman Ladislav Smid, and prospect Roman Horak (C) to Calgary for the always interesting Ilya Bryzgalov and prospect netminder Laurent Brossoit (G).
Following the surprising trade, the Oilers faced current Cup Champions, and Stars' last opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite putting up 2 power play goals, the Oilers allowed the Hawks 3 goals in the 3rd period, and Hawks took the 2 points, winning by 1 goal. Unsurprisingly, the OIlers enjoyed goals by Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, Perron and Eberle, but just ran out of time to try and tie the game.
What this all means is that the Oilers are expected to hit the ice at Rexall with desperation. They are hungry for wins, hungry for points, and tired of being the butt of the league jokes. However, a young, desperate team has a propensity to make mistakes. Being well rested, the Stars should be able to capitalize on those mistakes, and punish the Oilers on the scoreboard.
The Oilers are also fond of dump-n-change, wherein they dump the puck into their own offensive zone, then head to the bench for a change. Their forwards seem to have forgotten how to play defensively, so look for the Stars to seize as many opportunities as possible to reclaim dumped pucks, and make rushes to the opposing net.
The unknown is likely-starting netminder Ilya "Humangous" Bryzgalov. At times, he's brilliant - perfectly positioned to the shooter, seeing everything as if a glowing puck were still employed, and looks like a potential Vezina candidate. And other times, the old beach ball joke is not inaccurate. Whichever of the Jekyl and Hyde personalities Bryz brings to play, the Stars should approach as if he's the Vezina candidate. Career in facing the Stars, Bryz has a .934SV% with a 2.27SV%.
Edmonton plays like a team with little chemistry, and the star players are only sharp when the puck is on their stick - it's when a teammate has the puck that mistakes happen (the no-me syndrome). If the Stars stay patient, stick to their positions, cover the man and not the puck, and rush the zone as often as possible, the Stars will add another loss to the Oilers' record.
GOALS: Taylor Hall (5), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins & Boyd Gordon (4)
ASSISTS: Jordan Eberle & Mark Arcobello (10), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (8)
POINTS: Jordan Eberle (13), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins & Mark Arcobello (12)
SHOTS: David Perron (51), Jordan Eberle (48), Mark Arkobello & Taylor Hall (42)
Bryzgalov v Stars - Career W/L: 13-8-2 GAA: 2.27 SV%: .924 (58 goals on 767 shots
Dubnyk v Stars - Career W/L: 1-4-1 GAA: 3.50 SV%: .885 (21 goals on 219 shots) INJURIES
Luke Gazdic - Shoulder
Richard Bachman - Lower Body
Tyler Pitlik - Knee
Justin Schultz - Groin
Corey Potter - Back
Steve MacIntyre - Knee