San Jose Sharks (10-5-1, 21 pts) @ Dallas Stars (11-7-0, 22 pts)
7:00 PM CT, November 19, 2011
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
The Stars find themselves in a worst case scenario situation tonight. Dallas has lost four games in a row in astonishingly horrible fashion while the visiting San Jose Sharks have been one of the best teams in the past month. Dallas has played back-to-back games three times this year and have lost the latter half of that back-to-back each time.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have just finished a six game home stand, had an extra day of rest and have been on an offensive tear lately. Basically, add up all the talking points coming into this game and the outcome looks grim for the Stars.
The Sharks have gone 7-2-1 in their past games, beating some of the hottest teams in the NHL in the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ve scored at least three goals in five of their last six games. For Stars team that hasn’t scored in seven periods, that’s pretty much a death sentence if it happens again this game.
The guys to keep an eye on for the Sharks are Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle. Pavelski leads the Sharks in goals (10) and points (18) and has a history of destroying Dallas whenever he plays them. Marleau and Boyle have been excellent for the Sharks this season on their PP. Both guys have six points with the man-advantage and with the amount of penalties that the Stars take, that could certainly be a big difference tonight.
The big weakness on the Sharks is their PK, ranked dead last in the NHL this season. Opponents have scored a PP goal on 26.8% of the man-advantages that they have. The only problem is that San Jose is a very VERY disciplined team. They’ve taken only 69 penalties this season and been down a man only 56 times, both are second best in the NHL. As a comparison, the Stars taken 108 penalties and have been on the PK 88 times, both second most in the NHL. The Sharks give up a lot of PP goals, but they don’t find themselves in that situation very often.
Dallas needs to figure out what they’ve been doing in the past two games and do the exact opposite of that. The offense has been non-existent, evident in getting shutout in two straight games. They’ve been outshot in the last four games, all losses, and haven’t had more than 27 shots themselves. Scoring chances are down, puck cycling is gone and the net-driving hasn’t been good.
The Stars must come out fighting tonight. The last thing they need is to be outshot by 10 in the first period again while spending nearly the whole time in their own zone. Tonight starts a four game Thanksgiving week homestand for the Stars. Take losses and the players (and fans) will have nothing to be thankful for about the team.
Andrew Raycroft gets the start tonight for the Stars. He’s played on the latter night of each back-to-back games this season, all losses on the road.
Alex Goligoski (broken thumb) and Adam Burish (broken hand) will be missing in action.
The Sharks will probably be starting Antti Niemi in goal tonight. He stopped 40 shots in their last game.
San Jose will be without backup goalie Antero Niittymaki (hip) and forward James Sheppard (knee).