The Dallas Stars hope a return home will help get them out of the slump that has plagued them so far in 2016. The Stars take on Edmonton tonight in the first game of a three-game homestand that will take them to the All-Star break.
January has not been kind to the Stars. They are 1-5-2 and come into tonight’s game with four straight losses (0-3-1). But they did see some positives in their last two games, an overtime loss at San Jose on Saturday and Tuesday’s 3-2 loss at Los Angeles.
“I think when you look at the way we were playing a week and a half ago to the way we played probably the second half of that San Jose game and a lot of the LA game didn’t get the results, but we’re playing the right way,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We’re doing the right things, and we’ve dug in a little bit, so we are going to keep our gas on the pedal as far as the way we want to play the game and keep going that way.”
Said Stars forward Patrick Sharp: “I think the last few periods we played some good hockey and weren’t rewarded as we felt we should have been. Our coach has said all season long that we’ll win when we deserve to win. We just aren’t doing little things as well as we can. We’re a confident group in here; we believe in our coaches and we believe in each other. Times like this teach you a lot about your team. We are going to come out of it and be better for it.”
The Stars recent woes have come mostly on the road, where they have dropped their past eight games (0-5-3). They’ve been a much different team at American Airlines Center, where they have won nine of the past eleven (9-2-0) and outscored their opposition 37-18.
“Well, we wanted to improve our home record. If you’re going to lose to them on the road, you got to come home and win,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “It was one of the things we set out to do, was improve the home record and so far we have. Coming back off a road trip is always a tough one, but it’s a game here in our building that we look at to turn things around.”
Antti Niemi was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars, so it looks like he’ll get the start in goal tonight. He’s 0-2-2 in his last four decisions and hasn’t won a game since the 5-1 victory over Nashville on New Year’s Eve.
Ruff juggled his lines at the morning skate, reuniting the line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Sharp. Jason Spezza skated on the right wing with center Cody Eakin and left wing Valeri Nichushkin. The line of Antoine Roussel, Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky, which has been effective recently, stayed intact. Colton Sceviour, a scratch the last game, skated on the fourth line with Vernon Fiddler and Patrick Eaves. Travis Moen skated late and is the expected scratch at forward tonight.
On defense, Jyrki Jokipakka is expected to be in the lineup tonight after sitting out the past two games as a scratch. He skated with Esa Lindell on the third pair this morning. Patrik Nemeth is the expected scratch on defense. Jamie Oleksiak is still on a conditioning assignment in the AHL and Jordie Benn is out with a lower-body injury.
Cam Talbot will get the start in goal tonight for the Oilers. Talbot is 9-13-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .915 save percentage. The Oilers (19-24-5) come into tonight’s game with points in four of their past five games (2-1-2). Two of their top forwards – Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – are out due to injury. Tonight’s game wraps up a three-game road trip for the Oilers.
Who: Edmonton Oilers at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Valeri Nichushkin – Cody Eakin – Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel – Mattias Janmark – Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Esa Lindell – Jyrki Jokipakka
Injured: Jordie Benn
Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen
Conditioning: Jamie Oleksiak
Taylor Hall – Leon Draisaitl – Teddy Purcell
Rob Klinkhammer - Benoit Pouliot – Jordan Eberle
Zack Kassian – Mark Letestu – Iiro Pakarinen
Matt Hendricks – Anton Lander – Nail Yakupov
Andrej Sekera – Mark Fayne
Brandon Davidson – Justin Schultz
Darnell Nurse – Eric Gryba
Injured: Andrew Ference (undisclosed), Oscar Klefbom (finger), Lauri Korpikoski (foot), Connor McDavid (clavicle), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand)
Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Brad Hunt
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.