The Dallas Stars will look to regain some momentum going into a huge back-to-back this weekend on the road, and need to do it against a team they have dominated. But while the Edmonton Oilers are one of only five NHL teams eliminated from the playoffs this late in the season, someone forgot to tell them. The Oilers are one a seven-game points streak as they’ve gone 5-0-2, including a 3-0-1 roadtrip that ended with a 6-3 win in Columbus on Sunday. While the Oilers are yet again building towards their future, they have given quite a few playoff teams issues recently including Nashville, the San Jose Sharks, and they’ve beaten the Calgary Flames in both of their meetings since the trade deadline. Coming off their home-and-home split with the Flames, the Stars need two points tonight just to possibly keep up with the pack in the Pacific and in the West. The Sharks currently hold a one point lead over the Stars and the Phoenix Coyotes, and play at Anaheim tonight while the Flames host the Los Angeles Kings (who are two behind San Jose). Depending on tonight’s outcomes, San Jose, L.A., or the Stars could lead the Pacific tomorrow and the Flames could stay alive in the Western Conference race or become almost completely eliminated. The Sharks, Kings, and Stars will be looking to capitalize on their opportunities, as tonight they play their “game-in-hand” over the Coyotes, meaning all the Pacific division competitors will have five games left after tonight.
The Oilers will be looking for their first win of the season over the Stars without one of their young studs though. Taylor Hall will be out for five-six months now while recovering from shoulder surgery (he’s already recovering from a concussion). Hall will not only miss the rest of this season, but he might miss some time at the start of next season and training camps. Veteran center Shawn Horcoff is questionable, but will attempt to play tonight. For the Stars the big news is that rookie Reilly Smith will make his first pro start tonight, playing on the four line. Eric Nystrom will be out after his leg was cut Monday in Calgary, and Radek Dvorak is still out dealing with an ankle injury. Smith will see his first action after the Stars signed the former Miami University star and 3rd round pick to a deal early this week, while Brenden Morrow will jump up to the 3rd line after playing the last two games on the 4th. Mark Fistric remains out and now the Stars are saying that he will not play for the rest of the roadtrip.
The puck drops at 8:30PM tonight central time from Edmonton as the Stars will be looking for the season sweep over the Oilers. Dallas is 3-0 against Edmonton so far this season, winning by a combined 11-3 margin. The second game of the four-game trip comes as a must win after the Stars lost 5-4 in Calgary, with a back-to-back against Vancouver and San Jose coming up this weekend. One thing the Stars will need to avoid is penalties. Their recent woes with discipline and the timing of penalties has been a disturbing issue, costing them the game completely on Monday. While the Oilers might be young and lacking on defense, they have the league’s 2nd best powerplay and they can move the puck quickly. The Stars could easily dictate five-on-five play tonight but pointless penalties could open the door for the Oilers, and Dallas can not defeat themselves again tonight.
- The Stars don’t take a ton of shots (22nd in the NHL at 28.2 per game), but the Oilers actually take less at 27.1 per game (29th in the NHL).
- While the Ducks are out of it, they could help the Stars and Kings. Anaheim has won four of the first five meetings between them and the Sharks, and another tonight could give the Stars back the Pacific division lead.
- Reilly Smith will start the game alongside Tom Wandell and Ryan Garbutt, but Gulutzan hinted that the Stars could use him in different situations depending on how the game goes.