After playing five straight games on the road during a trip that covered about 5000 miles, the Dallas Stars have to be glad to finally be back home. But unlike most of their fans, they are not settling in and getting ready for Christmas. The Stars have three home games this week and start it off by hosting the Anaheim Ducks tonight in downtown Dallas. While the Stars have to happy with coming home with a 3-2 record on the trip after blowing the first game in San Jose, the Ducks would love to never see the road again. After losing at Winnipeg over the weekend, the Ducks are now winless in their last 11 road games and enter tonight’s contest with a 9-18-5 record. While most of the Pacific Division teams have stayed within 4-5 points of the leader at all times, the Ducks are 14 points behind the division leading Stars as of this morning. Even after firing Randy Carlyle and bringing in Bruce Boudreau to coach the team just two days after Washington fired him, things have not really changed in Anaheim.
Richard Bachman will take to the crease again for the Stars. Tonight will be the first time that the hometown fans will get to see Bachman in action. After replacing Andrew Raycroft in the first game of the roadtrip Bachman went on to post a 3-1 record with a 2.08 goals against and .931 save percentage in his first four NHL starts. While he had a bad night in Friday’s loss to the New Jersey Devils, most of the team did and the defense in front of him was not very helpful. At the other end Jonas Hiller is the expected starter for the Ducks. After fighting vertigo-symptoms last season and missing their run to the playoffs, he has returned this season. But through 27 games so far this year, his stats are nothing like what he has posted the past few years. But again, the team as a whole has been very inconsistent and shaky this season. So while Hiller has not played like the former All-Star he is, half of the teams big names are not performing.
Mark Fistric will make his return to the ice tonight after missing the last five games because of the three-game suspension and then being scratched in favor of Philip Larsen. Larsen will be out a quad injury, and Adam Burish is healthy but will miss one more game as he gets back up to speed after recovering from a broken hand. Also young winger Tomas Vincour will be out tonight with a knee injury and may miss a few games. Kari Lehtonen is skating some but is a couple of weeks away from returning. Veteran forwards Saku Koivu and Jason Blake are both out for the Ducks, and defenseman Matt Smaby is out as well.
The puck will drop on the second meeting between these two teams at 7:00PM tonight to fit with the game being broadcast on Versus tonight. I’m with most of you in being against the VS broadcast team, but it is good for the Stars to play in front of a wider viewing audience and get more exposure. While the Ducks look lame coming into this one, I would never count them out of a game between these two teams. Dallas won the first matchup of the season 3-1 in Anaheim, and despite losing on Friday, will be the team with some momentum coming into this game. The biggest fear is overcoming the return home. After long trips, the Stars almost always return home and start their first game back slowly. The worst thing the team could do is come out flat and spot the Ducks a lead. Getting right into the game and taking over the first period could make the Ducks rethink about wanting to force the issue on the road.
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Austin Waldron (@BlackoutDallas)
Andrew Monrreal (@ammonrreal)