The Dallas Stars look to sweep the Winter Classic participants as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at the American Airlines Center. The puck will drop at 6:30 to accommodate the second straight national broadcast on Versus. The Stars, who defeated the Flyers’ opponent for the Winter Classic in the New York Rangers last Tuesday, have struggled against the Flyers in recent years, going winless in their last five games played against Philly. Both the division leaders (Dallas leading the Pacific with 39 points and Philadelphia leading the Atlantic with 44 points) will be looking to get key players back from injuries as the Stars will definitely be welcoming back right winger Adam Burish, after missing the previous 15 games with a broken hand. Burish, who has been skating the last week trying to get his feet back under him, brings his fiery 32 PIM along with his eight points back to a Stars lineup that has had a problem shaking the injury bug that took the wind out of the sails from last year’s division leading team. To make room for Burish, the Stars placed Tomas Vincour on IR after he went down with a knee injury that will keep him out for a couple of weeks.
The Flyers are looking to get a huge boost from returning right winger Claude Giroux. Giroux, who is tied for the league lead in points with 39 points, has missed the Flyers last four games with a concussion. Giroux was quoted as saying, “If you see me in warm-ups, that means I’m going to play.” It was also just mentioned on Twitter by Dallas Morning News beat writer, Mike Heika, that the Flyers will be starting Sergei Bobrovsky over their number one net minder, Ilya Bryzgalov, who the Stars are no stranger to from his playing days (and general dominance) with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Speaking of starting goaltenders, Dallas rookie Richard Bachman looks to make his sixth start in a row, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.25 GAA and 0.924 save percentage in his first five NHL starts. As I’m sure head coach Glen Gulutzan would point out, he’s just riding the hot streak of “The Biz,” many who follow this team have to be thinking the writing is on the wall for back-up Andrew Raycroft and his future with the team. Raycroft hasn’t seen ice time since the shellacking he took in San Jose on December 8th when he was pulled after two periods.
Generally, there’s not a whole lot of pressure riding on out-of-conference games in the NHL, but the Stars can definitely use this as a measuring stick with how they match up with the elite teams of the league, as the Flyers have missed the post season only once in the last 17 years. The Stars have fared pretty well against the “best” this season, most notably going to the nation’s capital and upsetting Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals by a score of 5-2. Against the East, the Stars are 4-2 against teams who have recently been in the top eight (Wash, NJ, Ott, etc.), however, against the “have-nots,” (NYI, Tor, Car, etc) they have struggled to a 1-4 record. Tonight’s tilt will go a long way in putting this team back in the spotlight, as it’s rumored HBO will have their “24/7” cameras rolling.