Game 29 Preview: Dallas Stars @ New York Rangers

Dallas Stars (16-11-1, 33 pts) @ New York Rangers (17-6-4, 38 pts)

6:00 PM CT, December 13, 2011

Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

Richard Bachman got his first win in the NHL in his first start in the Stars 2-1 win over the LA Kings. Tonight, he faces a much stiffer test as the Stars hit the East Coast for three games in the New York/ New Jersey area. Their opponent tonight? The New York Rangers, the team that Brad Richards went to in the offseason and a team that could be sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference if they win the game tonight.

The big story in the media tonight will be about Richards, who spent the last four seasons with the Stars before moving to greener pastures this year. Richards has been solid, but not his usual top of the NHL self. When’s the last time you’ve seen Richards play every game three months into the season and not sit in the top 10 in any of the offensive rankings (goals, assists and points)? The Rangers have been successful this season because of the guys around Richards, so Dallas can’t be too preoccupied with stopping him.

New York comes into this game as one of the hottest teams in the league, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. They’ve been blitzkrieging their opponents with offense lately. scoring 10 goals in their last two games. Their offense ranks in the top 10 in the NHL while their defense, led by goalie Henrik Lundqvist, ranks in the top 5.

Lundqvist has been his usual stellar self this season, going 12-5-4 with a 2.08 GAA and a .932 save percentage, both in the top echelon among all NHL goaltenders. In his career against the Stars, he’s 3-2-0 with his percentages around his marks this season. He was the winning goalie in last year’s matchup between these two teams. Dallas has had a little trouble with their offense recently so they need to shoot the puck tonight. Force Lundqvist to make saves tonight and hope for rebounds.

On the offensive side of the puck, this Rangers team is stacked. Richards has 11 goals and 14 assists (most on the team) this season, but guys like Marion Gaborik, Derek Stepan, Ryan Callahan and Artem “Goalie Shooter” Anisimov are having excellent seasons. Gaborik is tied with Richards for the team lead in points (25) and leads the team with 15 goals so he’s really enjoying the playmaking ability that Richards brings. Mike Ribeiro and his line will have to be at the top of their defensive game tonight to stop that combo.

Callahan has been the Rangers best goalscorer on the power-play (5 goals). Stepan and Anisimov are tied for second on the team with 13 assists each so this is a deep team that the Stars are playing tonight. In fact, only two every game players on the Rangers are in the negative side of the plus/minus. Brandon Prust and surprisingly, Brad Richards himself (both are -2 this season). This team will score in bunches so Bachman will have to be at the top of his game tonight.

For Dallas, it’s Bachman in net. Adam Burish (broken hand) and Kari Lehtonen (groin) are still on injured reserve and will be out this game. Mark Fistric is serving the last game of his three game suspension tonight so he’s out as well.

New York will be starting Lundqvist and will be missing four players tonight. Defensemen Mark Staal (concussion) and Kurt Sauer (concussion) are out as well as forwards Mike Rupp (knee) and Wojtek Wolski (sports hernia). It also looks like Sean Avery will not be playing tonight, so that’s not going to be a problem tonight.

Notes and Observations:

  • New York has scored a power-play goal in seven of their last eight games. If the Stars were to ever get a streak going like that, it might be a sign that the world is ending.
  • The Ranger’s PK has been just as good, going perfect in five of the their last six games. This includes going 7 of 7 in their last game against the Florida Panthers, a team that went wild against the Stars.
  • The Rangers have the best home defense in the NHL. They have given up only 25 goals at home, tied with the Penguins for best in the league.
  • Jamie Benn finally got his scoring touch back in the game against the LA Kings, netting a goal for the first time since November 23.