STARS (3-2-3) at DUCKS (3-3-1)
-- Each team took three games from last year's head-to-head, the Stars winning in regulation and in overtime, the Ducks with one regulation win and two shootouts.
-- Both teams come off frustrating losses, Dallas dropping one at home to the hard-charging Kings and the Ducks getting blanked 5-0 by the Blues at Honda Center. In the Stars' case, part of the problem was not having points leader Brad Richards on hand to get the offense going while the Ducks struggled as well, particularly on the power play, getting shut out for the second time in three games.
-- With four key players out, it's hard enough to maintain consistent play. The Stars have had to get by without Mike Modano, Steve Ott
, Brad Richards or Jere Lehtinen, and Modano's return looked imminent until Friday when he aggravated the rib injury that sidelined him since the season opener. Lehtinen suffered a groin injury during the Nashville game on October 14. Both were placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Meanwhile, coach Marc Crawford has had to roll out a lineup with nine players age 24 or younger. Brenden Morrow
and Mike Ribeiro
turned in solid efforts in the 4-1 loss to the Kings, but could not cover up the mistakes made by less experienced players.
-- After two shutouts in three games, a 2.14 goals-per-game average, and an 0-for-17 drought on the power play, offense has become an issue with a team that specifically tried to upgrade in that area in the offseason.
"We don't have one line right now that's playing consistently well," Joffrey Lupul told the Orange County Register at practice on Sunday. "The games we've won and played well it seems like everybody contributed. It's just a matter of everyone getting comfortable with who they're playing with, and there's a little bit more we can do as far as winning battles and giving ourselves a little bit more of a chance to play off them."
Lupul could be one of the pieces shuffled to wake up the offense, moving from the third to the second line with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu
-- Morrow shares the Stars point lead with Richards, but he also boasts a pair of power-play goals in those nine points. Corey Perry
sets the pace for the Ducks with seven points, but also is an example of the lack of production from their top line, as his two goals are the only ones he, Ryan Getzlaf
and Bobby Ryan
have scored in the last four games.
-- One player who could certainly give the Ducks' power play a kick-start is defenseman James Wisniewski, who missed the last three games with a sprained shoulder. He participated in full practices on Sunday and Monday and expects to be ready for Wednesday's matchup.
"I’m doing pretty well," Wisniewski said to anaheimducks.com. "It’s getting better and better every day with the treatment. I’m still shooting for Wednesday and that is a realistic date. I can’t injure it more or re-injure it. I’m going to have to play through a little bit of pain and fight through it."
Wisniewski is still the team leader in assists and plus/minus, with a 4 in each column.
Richards (groin) did not skate Monday or Tuesday and is still questionable for Wednesday. Ott (oblique muscle) skated with the Stars on Tuesday and is expected to return some time during the road trip.
-- Getzlaf finished last season with 28 power-play assists, leading his team and good for fourth in the league. He has only one this year. The Ducks' 2.14 goals-per-game average overall drops to 1.33 at home (4 goals in 3 games).
-- Still very early, but both teams have some major issues to address if they are to stay competitive in a cramped Pacific Division.
-- Matt Mankiewich, NHL.com