The Dallas Stars dropped the last two games of their four game road trip in frustrating fashion. They were outscored and outplayed, and the injury bug reared it’s ugly head and bit Alex Goligoski, taking him out for around four weeks with a broken thumb. Add that to Steve Ott’s nagging hip injury, and the Stars have hit their first real rough patch of the season. If there was ever a time for the Stars to show what team they really are, it is now. Dallas still holds the first place spot in the Pacific, and the second place spot in the conference, but Phoenix, San Jose, and Los Angeles are all tied for second in the Pacific, and they’re hanging off the coat tails of the Stars. In other words, it’s business as usual in the Pacific Division. The race has begun, and it’s going to be a long and exciting ride.
Phoenix Coyotes: (8-4-3, 19 points)
Despite only playing two games in the last week, the Coyotes have still shown they are playing solid hockey, picking up 3 points to keep them in second place in the division. Mike Smith is the gift that keeps on giving, it’s been nearly a month since he has been beaten in regulation and he is turning out to be quite the story. He has flown under the radar for the most part, as all of Phoenix tends to do, but that’s just the kind of thing they need for an emerging goaltender. The Coyotes begin a four game, Eastern Conference road trip tomorrow night when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is an important trip for Phoenix, and it’s much like Dallas’ recent trip, facing four solid teams and a true test to prove how good the team really is.
San Jose Sharks: (9-5-1, 19 points)
San Jose continues to trend upward, picking up two wins versus Los Angeles and the Minnesota Wild before being shutout by the aforementioned Mike Smith and Phoenix Coyotes. The Sharks have a talented hockey team, no one is doubting that, but their offense has stalled a bit over the last week. Joe Pavelski has not scored a goal in three games after beginning the season with an explosive outburst, but Antti Niemi has been the rock in goal that San Jose needs him be, keeping the Sharks competitive and probably winning them a couple games. Obviously offense is not an issue for the Sharks, a stall here and there is to be expected, but they have the depth and defense to win games. San Jose’s next tilt is against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, November 17th.
Los Angeles Kings: (8-6-3, 19 points)
Don’t let the 19 points fool you, the Kings are not playing great hockey. They’ve only won two of their last eight, and are fortunate for their early season success, or they’d be in a bit of trouble. I said last week that they’d hit a bump recently. Well, that bump has turned into a pothole that managed to flatten a tire. On paper this might be pound for pound one of the most talented teams in the league. On the ice they’ve stumbled and stumbled and are still trying to right themselves. Their winning record and second place point total can keep fans disillusioned for now, but it will take some more time to see if this team is going to break out of their slumber. LA’s next game is on Wednesday, November 16th, against none other than the last place and division rival Anaheim Ducks…
Anaheim Ducks: (6-8-3, 15 points)
The free fall in Anaheim continues. One win in their last eight games. Their offensive stars have not been producing, Jonas Hiller has not been impressive, and they’re losing games in embarrassing fashion, getting outplayed early and often. The Ducks cannot sit around and wait for the team to just click and expect to win games. No one is calling for Coach Randy Carlyle’s head, and nor should they, but there has to be a shake up at some level to get this team moving along. Just this morning it was announced Anaheim picked up former Stars winger Niklas Hagman off re-entry waivers from the Calgary Flames. Will Hagman save the team? Well, no, of course not, but he’s a veteran who can produce and new blood will be beneficial. Anaheim is at an important part of their season, if they have another month performing like they have been then the Ducks’ season is in real jeopardy. As mentioned earlier, the Ducks takes on the Kings on Wednesday, November 16th.
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