Phoenix Coyotes @ Dallas Stars
7:00 PM CT
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
The Coyotes are coming off their franchise’s best season ever. They won the Pacific Division for the first time in their history and made it all the way to the Conference finals where they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings.
They had a relatively quiet offseason with more players leaving (most notably Ray Whitney) than coming in. Their most significant additions this season are Steve Sullivan, Zbynek Michalek and the just-traded-for Matthew Lombardi. Sullivan should be the top line winger and Lombardi could eventually be the top line center. Michalek is a top-four defenseman for the team and will split time between the first and second pairings.
Other than those guys, it’ll be more of the same from Phoenix. They’ll rely heavily on Mike Smith in goal and their strong defense led by Keith Yandle and up-and-coming star Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Shane Doan is still around (no Jamie Benn to elbow this time around though) and still extremely hated and punchable.
Raffi Torres is suspended due to his rocket-skated head shot of Marian Hossa in last year’s playoffs.
Possible line combos:
Ekman-Larsson – Michalek
There’s a lot of storylines buzzing around this Stars team but the biggest storyline for Dallas is obviously the Jamie Benn situation. It looks like he won’t be signed until the middle of next week so that means Tom Wandell gets another shot to show some kind of offensive capability for the team (though I’m hoping Cody Eakin gets some time there as well) and Derek Roy gets top billing on the first line.
Moving on from that though, there’s a lot to be excited about from this offense as fans get to see Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, Roy and a few of the young kids for the first time in a Stars jersey.
Whitney will have something to prove against his former team so hopefully he comes out and dominates. It’ll be fascinating to watch what happens when the Stars get a power play.
Kari Lehtonen obviously gets the nod and hopefully he’s not too rusty with the extended layoff.
The Stars won three of these matchups last season, but they were all in a shootout so expect another close game tonight.
On the injury front, Aaron Rome has a groin injury and is questionable. His loss would just be another big blow to an already shaky defensive corps. Brenden Morrow gave everyone a scare yesterday when he went down during practice but he’s alright with just a cut on his face. Antoine Roussel isn’t injured but he was sent back down to the AHL to give the Texas Stars another healthy body to play.
Rome(if healthy, Jordie Benn if not)-Daley