Preview Game 76: Stars @ Sharks

Dallas Stars @ San Jose Sharks

Thursday March 31, 9:30 P.M CT 

To say that tonight’s game against San Jose (44-23-9, 97 points – 3rd, Western Conference) is the biggest game of the season is not hyperbole. It is the epitome of a must-win game. Ok, now I’ve run out of big words, let’s just say that if the Stars (38-26-11, 87 points – 9th, Western Conference) want to remain in the playoff hunt with a reasonable shot at sneaking into the playoffs, they need to win tonight at the Shark Tank.

The single point gained against Phoenix on Tuesday helped the team tread water, but time is running out, and the waters continue to become more dangerous in the swirling pool of the Shark Tank. The Stars currently sit in ninth place, three points behind Chicago for the final playoff spot, while the Sharks are comfortably in third in the conference, tops in the Pacific. The good news for Dallas is that they have been good against San Jose this season (3-1-1), and are historically very good at pulling out road wins against the Sharks.

The Stars are unlikely to be caught from behind by Calgary at this point, and are unlikely to catch anyone themselves but Chicago or Nashville, so that should be their focus. They are currently three points back of Chicago with one game in hand, and five back from Nashville with two in hand. This means that they Stars have to win, win, win. If they do, they still control their own destiny.

The Stars head to SoCal for the weekend to face the Kings and Ducks. If they can come out of these next three games in good shape, the final four games of the season are against teams outside of playoff contention. So, all is not lost, but any successful race to the finish line includes a win tonight.

To get that win tonight, the best players need to be the best players. Guys like Jamie Benn, Mike Ribeiro, and Alex Goligoski have shown up big lately, but they need guys like Richards and Eriksson to show up on the score sheet as well. A key tonight could be special teams, where the Stars have shined against the Sharks this season. The power play has performed at a 33.3% clip against the Sharks this season, while the PK stands at sterling 89% heading into tonight.

Stars Notes:

  • On the injury front, Adam Burish is unlikely to play tonight, which continues to hurt as they can’t seem to win without him. Grossman is still in Dallas rehabbing, but on the bright side, Karlis Skrastins is a possibility to play tonight.
  • The Stars have won four of their last five games in San Jose, compiling a 4-1-0 record in that span. All four victories have been by one goal, with Dallas earning a 3-2 win in each of the games.
  • Dallas’ power play has converted on five of 15 opportunities against the San Jose Sharks in the season series (33.3%).
  • The Stars have killed off 10 of their opponent’s last 11 power plays (91%), and have killed off 17-of-19 opportunities against the Sharks in the season series (89.5%).
  • They have allowed only one power play opportunity per game against the opposition in three of the last four games.

Sharks Notes:

  • Against Phoenix on the 26th, Logan Couture reached the 30-goal plateau with a two-goal, one-assist effort while his linemate Ryane Clowe recorded his second career Gordie How Hat Trick with a fighting major and three points (1-2=3).
  • Antti Niemi has been on a roll as of late. In 15 starts dating Jan. 15 thru Feb. 20, he posted 11 wins, three shutouts, a .939 save percentage and a 1.77 GAA. Previously, no Sharks goalie has ever had a 15-start span (in a single season) posting that many wins and shutouts, that high of a save percentage, and that low of a GAA.


Season Series Stats:

                              Dallas                  San Jose        
Head-to-Head Record 3-1-1 2-1-2
Game 1 at Dallas  (OT)      5 4
Game 2 at San Jose (SO)   3 2
Game 3 at Dallas  (OT)      3 4
Game 4 at San Jose 3 2
Game 5 at Dallas 3 6
Goals per Game 3.4 3.6
Shots per Game 31 37
Penalty Minutes per Game    16.8 12.8
Hits per Game 30.2 30.2
Power Play       5 of 15 (33.3%)     2 of 19 (10.5%)
Last 10 Games 3-3-4 6-1-3