With tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens starting at 6 p.m. the Dallas Stars did not hold a morning skate today, but they did gather at American Airlines Center for some meetings.
There were some clues as to what coach Lindy Ruff could be thinking as far as his lineup. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen went on the ice with goaltending coach Jeff Reese, so that’s an indication that Antti Niemi could be in goal tonight vs. Montreal.
This would be Niemi’s first start since he played in back-to-back games last weekend, stopping 19 of 20 shots in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia Friday in Dallas and then stopping 23 of 26 in a 3-0 loss at St. Louis the following night.
Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth and Travis Moen all skated after this morning’s meetings, so they appear to be tonight’s scratches.
The Stars come into tonight’s game on what Ruff has called a roller coaster ride. They’ve been up and down lately, losing two of the past three games, three of the past six and four of the past eight.
“We know we are a good hockey team, and we’ve had some lulls in games that have cost us a little bit lately,” said Stars forward Colton Sceviour. “It’s just focusing on getting back to playing the way we know we can play and the way we were at the beginning of the year, defending better and limiting those mistakes that allow teams to get back in the game.”
The Stars are the top scoring team in the NHL, but they have had some ups and downs in that area as well lately, scoring one goal or fewer in three of the past six games.
“Some of it just comes down to flat out execution,” Ruff said. “We had chances to make plays last game and we had a lot of near misses. We revisited some of those plays this morning, and if we find we finally get ourselves in the hole, and we hit the net on some of those, it creates some second opportunities, so the looks were there. Some of it just came down to finish.”
The Stars take on a Montreal team that has the third best record in the NHL at 20-10-3 but has lost six of its past seven games (1-6-0).
“[They have] good speed. The group of forwards, they generate a lot of speed on transition,” Ruff said. “I think you got two teams that skate really well. They outshot LA [in 3-0 loss Thursday] by a pretty big margin. They’ve got some good, big shooters on the back end and overall, I thought they defended pretty well.”
The Canadiens are 1-6-0 in their past seven games, scoring just 11 goals during that stretch. They are still without goaltender Carey Price, who went out with a lower-body injury on Nov. 25. Montreal is 3-6-1 without Price.
Mike Condon will get the start in goal tonight. Condon is 9-6-3 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .911 save percentage but has lost his past four starts.
Forward Michael McCarron, who was called up from St. John’s of the AHL Friday, will make his NHL debut tonight. McCarron, Montreal’s first-round pick (25th overall) in 2013, has 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) in 28 AHL games this season.
“He certainly deserved to get called up with the quality of his play over there,” said Montreal coach Michael Therrien. “He’s a net presence. He’s got size, and we want him to take one thing at a time. It’s going to be an exciting time for him. His family’s going to be there, so but I don’t want him to give himself too much pressure. We just want him to play the game like he did so well in the American Hockey League.”
Who: Montreal Canadiens at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 6:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Valeri Nichushkin
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen
Max Pacioretty – Tomas Plekanec – Alex Galchenyuk
Tomas Fleischmann – David Desharnais – Dale Weise
Michael McCarron – Lars Eller – Paul Byron
Daniel Carr – Torrey Mitchell – Brian Flynn
Nathan Beaulieu - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin- Jeff Petry
Andrei Markov - Tom Gilbert
Injured: Carey Price (lower body), Brendan Gallagher (hand), Devante Smith-Pelly (lower body)
Scratched: Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi, Sven Andrighetto
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.