The Dallas Stars are back in action tonight in game four of a five-game week. This time, they will play host to the Ottawa Senators. But not only will they be looking to split the season series with the Senators, but they will also be attempting to break out of an unfamiliar losing skid.
It’s Black Friday around the United States. And over the past few years, we’ve come to equate this man-made holiday with a Dallas Stars home game.
Since November of 2015, the Stars have played a home game on the day after Thanksgiving. As people rampage malls, stores, and the Internet to get a jump on early holiday deals, Stars fans can spend the day preparing for a showdown at the American Airlines Center.
And so far, they have yet to be disappointed. Since the 2015-16 season, Dallas is a perfect 3-0-0 on Black Friday. Each win has come against a Canadian opponent, with the Stars defeating the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the shootout in 2015 and 2-1 in 2016 and knocking off the Calgary Flames 6-4 last season.
This time around, it’s another Canadian opponent and another chance to break out of a losing skid. While the Stars haven’t been entirely dominant going into the Thanksgiving holiday in years past, they always find a way to come out of the break on a strong note.
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Tonight is their next chance at continuing tradition.
The Dallas Stars (11-9-2) will welcome the Ottawa Senators (9-10-3) to the American Airlines Center tonight. After going 2-3-0 in their last five games, the Stars are riding a two-regulation-loss skid for the first time since Oct. 16 when they dropped their second road game of the season to the New Jersey Devils. In other words, it’s been a while since Dallas has gone two games without any points.
The Senators are in a similar boat, with a 2-3-0 record over their past five contests. But their struggles have not been similar to those of the Stars. While Dallas has been unable to apply offensive pressure and possession over the past few games (2.00 goals for average in their last five contests), the Senators are not having any trouble with offense.
In the past five games, Ottawa is averaging 3.60 goals per game. They have scored the second-most goals of any team in the league this season with 79 (3.59 average) and know how to turn their speed and aggression into scoring chances.
“Their offensive transition game,” Stars head coach Jim Montgomery said about what he sees from Ottawa at today’s morning skate. “Their defensemen and how active they are in the offensive zone. They do a lot of rotation work that I commend them on. Their staff has done a really good job. It creates mismatches at times if you’re not prepared for it and it cost us the game-winning goal at Ottawa.”
The Senators’ problem, however, lies at the other end of the ice. Ottawa is currently dead-last in the NHL in goals against average at a grueling 4.27. The next closest team is Philadelphia at 3.62.
But the Senators are finding a way to balance their game out and stay in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. One of their nine wins came against Dallas back in the second week of the season. After taking an early 1-0 lead off of a John Klingberg goal, the Stars crumbled and ended the game in a 4-1 hole.
Eyes On Isles
And that’s what the Stars are working to counter against tonight. They have done well on home ice this season, posting a 7-3-1 record at the American Airlines Center. But over the past few games, they have definitely lacked some crucial intensity.
Dallas posted a 1-2-0 record on their most recent road trip to the northeast. After blowing out the New York Islanders in a 6-2 final on Sunday, the Stars dropped a 2-1 decision to the Rangers and followed it up with a 5-1 pummeling at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Adversity is the same no matter where you are,” Stars head coach Jim Montgomery said after today’s morning skate. “It’s the same thing in life, right? It either makes you better or you crumble. I spent a lot of time analyzing what I did and what we need to do better and hopefully what we did today is going to show on the ice tonight.”
The offense is definitely in need of a resurgence, and that all starts with energy and a winning mentality. Dallas didn’t have that on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, but has shown it in games before.
“To have better work effort and execution,” Stars defenseman Esa Lindell pointed out as a key to winning tonight. “Play good defense because they have scored the most goals in the league so we have to shut them down and they will give us a chance because they have let up the most goals in the league.”
“We just need to play as a five-man unit out there and grind it,” said defenseman Roman Polak.” It’s going to be a big grind tonight, but if we’re able to do it, we have to do it for 60 minutes. Everyone has to be on the same page and if we can go to the net and shoot lots of pucks, we aren’t going to have any problems.”
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The Dallas Stars acquired Fedun in exchange for a seventh-round pick in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 10 shortly before their game against the Nashville Predators. At 6-1, 201 lb., the 30-year-old is a solid-sized defenseman that can play well in every zone and plays a simple style.
“Todd Nelson knows his game really well from the American Hockey League,” Monty said of Fedun. “He thought he was very trustworthy and is someone who is going to simplify his game and simplify our team game by moving the puck quickly. Defensively, he’s going to be able to handle playing against third and fourth lines really well because of his strength.”
All in all, it’s shaping up to be another big test for a battered Dallas Stars squad as they look to continue recovering while keeping themselves in the fight.
“I think if we play like we did against Boston with passion and emotion, we will be fine,” said Stars center Radek Faksa. “I think we just need to play smarter than we did in the past two games on the road and grind out some zone time, they will make some mistakes and we can score from that.”
The Dallas Stars and Ottawa Senators drop the puck at 7 p.m. tonight from the American Airlines Center. If you’ve already done your Black Friday shopping, be sure to get out to the game or at least tune in.
It’s yet another big one, after all.