This could be one of the most important games of the season for the Stars. While showing a valient effort against the Bruins, nearly coming back from a 4-0 deficit – they have lost 2 in a row and 4 of the last 5. Luckily the schedule has relented somewhat for them, so other division foes have made little progress so far. However, that 5 point spread is going to evaporate quickly if they can’t fight through the injuries and get back on track. Their top 2 lines are largely healthy. They have solid forwards to pull up to fill in holes on the 3rd and 4th and the Defense is getting healthy again, so they should be fine; even though the hole left by Benn is obnoxiously noticeable right now.
This game is going to be big for two reasons. One, if they win it is the end of a spell that could ruin a season if kept up. Second reason, they are a really (really, really) good team. If they can beat a team who is either number 1 or 2 in the entire league then it puts any ideas instilled in their heads by the Canucks to rest; they can play with the big boys, they have a reason to be confident, they are worthy of their spot in the Western Conference.
The Stars will be without F Adam Burish (face), F Krys Barch (face), F Ray Sawada (shoulder/nose), F Jamie Benn (shoulder), F Tom Wandell (shoulder) and F Toby Petersen (leg). This means we will see Colton Sceviour and Francis Wathier called up to play in their spots as well as the return of Travis Morin who didn’t travel with the team to Boston, but will be with the team tonight.
The Flyers are all but pristine, only missing Laperrier from the lineup with a concussion. The Flyers are loaded, so they can be a handful and if the Stars can’t get back to the basics and start playing the defense we’ve seen them play all year, then the Flyers are going to tear them apart just like the Canucks and the Bruins and every other top-rated team in the league. Any team can beat any team in the league these days, but if you don’t defend well, then the top teams are going to squash you no matter how “close” things are in a cap-era NHL.
This is the first of two meetings between the two teams this year. The Stars know their position and it’s up to them to step up and pull themselves out of the grave they’ve dug themselves. This could be a game that decides if they keep the division title until the end of the season or if they are left struggling to keep a playoff spot in the middle of the pack. Without emotional leaders like Burish in the line-up, some of the veterans are going to have to get everyone up for a game that could prove that confidence is just as important as skill or determination.
We’ll see tonight at 6:00 PM when the Stars roll into Philadelphia with a battered roster and something to prove.