Game 24 Preview: Depleted Stars take on the Avs

Dallas Stars (13-9-1, 27 points) @ Colorado Avalanche (10-12-1, 21 points)

8:00 PM CT, November 28, 2011

Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

It’s just two months into the season, but the Stars are now officially in gut-check time. The Stars had a horrible game on Saturday, both on the ice and injury-wise, and they now come into this Colorado Avalanche game needing to just try and gut out some points.

The storyline in the Stars previous game wasn’t the 3-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, but the potentially devastating injuries suffered by Kari Lehtonen, Trevor Daley and Vernon Fiddler. Since that game, we’ve learned that Lehtonen has a groin injury, Daley has has a back problem and Fiddler had his own groin injury to deal with.

The most worry obviously comes out of the Lehtonen injury. He was put on IR and will officially be out at least one week. The problem is groin injuries are tricky to deal with, especially with a goaltender.v  Lehtonen could be ok in a week and a half or he could be out for over a month. In a tight race for playoff spots in the Western Conference, that amount of time missed could, and probably would be, devastating for the Stars season.

Into Lehtonen’s spot falls Andrew Raycroft, a longtime backup goalie in the league. Raycroft hasn’t been good this year, losing all five of his starts with a 3.50 GAA and a .899 save percentage. In fact, he hasn’t won a game in nearly a calendar year now. Raycroft has been in the league for 10 years and was a nominal start for two of those seasons in Boston and Toronto. As a day-in-day-out starter, Raycroft is 66-43-9-9 (9 ties and 9 OT losses) with a 2.52 GAA and a .910 save percentage. An enormous amount of pressure now rests on Raycroft’s shoulders.

Daley and Fiddler’s injuries were not as serious. Daley should be out only a game or two dealing with his bad back while Fiddler will not miss any time.

With all these injuries, the Stars have called up a couple of players, reserve goalie Richard Bachman and forward Francis Wathier, both from the Texas Stars. Bachman has played 10 minutes in his NHL career while Wathier has played 8 games. Neither should see much time on the ice unless the injury situation hits Judgement Day levels.

With all this going on, it can be easy to forget that the Stars play the Avs tonight. The Avs haven’t been good in the month of November, winning only 3 of their 12 games so far this month. Their goaltending and defense have been very bad and even their prolific power-play has been sputtering as of late. Semyon Varlamov looks like he will be starting, which could be beneficial for Dallas. Varlamov has only one of the wins for the Avs this month, a 5-2 win over Edmonton in their last game.

The three wins that the Avs have this month though all came on home ice, which is where the game is tonight. This game marks game 5 of the Avs 8 game home stand so they’ve had the benefit of sleeping in their own beds and not having to deal with travel issues.

Dallas has a myriad of injuries to deal with. Alex Goligoski (broken thumb), Adam Burish (broken hand), Lehtonen (groin), Brenden Morrow (upper body) and Daley (back) are out for this game. Fiddler will play tonight according to Glen Gulutzan.

The Avs have a few injury problems of their own. Forward Peter Mueller (concussion) and defenseman Erik Johnson (groin) are out for this game. Center Matt Duchene has been sick and missed practice on Sunday. He’s listed as probable so he should play, but it would be a huge blow to the Avs if he missed this game. He has 4 goals and an assist this year against Dallas.



Notes and thoughts:

  • The Avs have gone 3 of 23 on their power-play in their last seven games. Two of those PP goals both came in a home game against the Stars. They have 2 PP goals in each of their two previous games against the Stars.
  • With all these injuries, Dallas has been terrible on the PP. They have gone 1 of 20 in their last 9 games.

Previous games:

  • November 4 at American Airlines Center: Dallas 7 – Colorado 6 (OT)
  • November 18 at Pepsi Center: Dallas 0 – Colorado 3

Series Stats:

Dallas Colorado
Goals per game 3.5 4.5
Shots per game 26.5 42.5
Hits per game 26.5 16.5
PIM per game 11 8
Power Play 3 of 7 (43%) 4 of 10 (40%)
Penalty Kill 6 of 10 (60%) 4 of 7 (57%)