After what has felt like an eternity, Dallas Stars hockey has finally returned, and for all intents and purposes the Stars are playing playoff hockey. The consensus is that barring any huge collapse, there’s only one (possibly two if Los Angeles can’t play more consistent) playoff spots open in the Western Conference. With five teams in contention for that spot, every game and every points becomes more and more valuable, and scoreboard watching will become a habitual past time for Stars fans who will take help wherever we can get it.
Then there’s the Anaheim Ducks. Long considered a team destined to occupy the cellar after a horrid start, the team has erupted in the past month or so, throwing together a 8-1-1 record over their last ten games. The Ducks suddenly look like yet another team in play for those final playoff spots, sitting just seven points behind Phoenix, Calgary, and the Dallas Stars. This fact makes tonight’s game crucial for both teams. A win for Anaheim puts them in striking distance, and a win for Dallas puts some much needed space between their competition. The advantage tonight goes to Dallas by a slim margin, as they’re coming off of a long break and are healthy for the first time since the beginning of the season, and that last game before the break was against none other than the Ducks, where Kari Lehtonen put on a clinic, shutting out the Ducks en route to a 1-0 victory. The Ducks returned from their break last night, defeating the Phoenix Coyotes thanks to an Andrew Cogliano hat trick, but the team is in the second night of a back to back, giving the Stars a slight edge.
The Stars have owned the season series except for one game, where they were thoroughly kicked around by the Ducks leading to a 5-2 loss. The Stars allowed three third period goals and had a complete meltdown. They were in the midst of a two-game winning streak, and bounced back from the loss to secure a satisfying victory over the Los Angeles Kings two days later. Of course, that five game losing streak followed, but the Stars have shown themselves a capable team against the Ducks this year and with a healthy roster and the playoff race being a dog fight, the Stars have no excuses, and need to pick up two points tonight.
- As mentioned, the Stars are injury free. A statement we’ve been unable to make for much too long. The Ducks are missing back up goaltender Dan Ellis and rookie Devante Smith-Pelly.
- Kari Lehtonen and Jonas Hiller are expected to start.
- Adam Pardy, Mark Fistric, and Toby Petersen are expected to be the healthy scratches.
- Jamie Benn will make his long-awaited return to the ice tonight.
- The game is scheduled for a 9:30pm start and will be televised on FSSW+.