The Dallas Stars kick off a three-game homestand tonight when they take on the New York Rangers at American Airlines Center.
The Rangers are the hottest team in the NHL with eight straight wins, but the Stars haven’t been too shabby lately. They are 5-1-0 over their past six games and 6-2-0 in the past eight. The run has helped the Stars gain some ground in the Western Conference playoff race. They enter tonight’s game eight points behind San Jose, which currently holds the second wild card spot.
“We want to keep it going,” Stars defenseman Trevor Daley said. “We thought we played well. Ever since the road trip before to Western Canada, we thought we started heading in the right direction. So we just want to help ourselves get back into this, and the only way we get back into it is winning.”
The Stars have won four straight on the road, but they continue to experience ups and downs at home. They are 2-2-1 in their last five games at the AAC and are 6-7-5 at home this season.
“The message is we do have to defend well at home,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’ve tightened it up a little bit on the road, but at home it’s not making those big mistakes or not giving up those rush opportunities that allow a team to either get ahead or put them in position to win a game.”
“Inconsistent [at home],” Daley said. “Maybe a little content too much that we’re playing at home and taking it for granted at home. It’s tough to win in this league any night no matter if you’re on the road or at home. I think first of all, we just got to lock it down defensively. If we lock it down defensively, I think good things will start happening.”
The Rangers will present a good test for the Stars. They’ve been impressive during their run, outscoring the opposition 26-11 over the past eight games.
“They play a high pace. They play high tempo. They’re what we’re trying to get to right now. We want to have eight straight too and play at a high pace,” Daley said. “That’s where they’re at, so it’s going to be a great challenge tonight for us. They got a great team over there, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
New York has allowed two goals or fewer in each of the last seven games. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has won his last seven starts, posting a 1.40 goals against average and .940 save percentage.
“We know they are a team that has a lot of skill, a lot of speed and they have a great goaltender,” said Stars forward Shawn Horcoff. “When you’ve got a good goaltender like that, it’s going to be important for us to get pucks from all areas and create some traffic and scrambles in front, where it takes his athleticism out of it.”
Rangers forward Rick Nash has scored six goals during the streak and ranks second in the NHL with 23. Only Stars forward Tyler Seguin (25) has scored more.
“I think that just like Tyler, you can’t totally eliminate every opportunity,” Ruff said of Nash. “In Nash’s case, he’s good enough to create one or two of those chances on his own. We saw that last year in the game here where we were playing pretty well, and we gave him one opportunity and he put it in the back of the net. I think in Tyler’s case, almost every night he’s getting four or five opportunities. Last home game I think he had eight scoring chances and didn’t score, and that doesn’t happen very often, but he’s always there knocking on the door.”
Seguin has scored 13 goals in his last 16 games. Nash has tallied 11 in his last 15 games.
No lineup changes are expected for the Dallas Stars. Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice at this morning’s skate, so it appears he will make his ninth straight start. The forward lines and defense pairs are expected to be the same as Saturday’s game against St. Louis. Travis Morin and Jamie Oleksiak skated late this morning, so it appears they will be tonight’s scratches.
Henrik Lundqvist was the first goaltender off the ice for the Rangers, so it appears he’ll get the start in goal tonight. Forward J.T. Miller will be back in the lineup after sitting out Saturday’s game against New Jersey as a scratch. Jesper Fast will come out of the lineup. Matt Hunwick will be the scratch on defense.
Who: New York Rangers at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Colton Sceviour
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Travis Morin
Injured: Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
Rangers projected lineup
Rick Nash – Derick Brassard – Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Martin St. Louis
Carl Hagelin – Kevin Hayes – Lee Stempniak
Tanner Glass – Dominic Moore – J.T. Miller
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Dan Boyle
Kevin Klein – John Moore
Scratched: Jesper Fast, Matt Hunwick
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.