All is well for the Dallas Stars. Not only is Marc Crawford’s team currently riding a four-game winning streak but they also now sit atop the Pacific Division at 14-8-1 with 29 points, just three markers behind current Western Conference leader Detroit.
The Stars come off a nice 4-1 win at Carolina on Monday night. James Neal was the star of the evening offensively with a pair of goals while Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen
stopped 27 of 28 shots.
Now, after a few days between games, Dallas is set to host Washington on Thursday night. The Capitals currently have the best record in the NHL at 17-6-2 for 38 points and also boast an impressive goal differential of plus-18.
Much like when the Stars hosted Sidney Crosby and the Penguins back on November 3, a game Dallas won 5-2, this one is another measuring stick kind of game.
“You like it when you get a chance to play against top teams,” Dallas head coach Marc Crawford said. “They’re attention-getting teams. Whether it’s the individual stars that they have or that they’re top teams in the league, they all point to the fact that it’s a real good club. We really want to really challenge ourselves to be at the right form and right style of play that will allow us to win the game. We don’t care how we win but you’d like to win correctly.”
So far in 2010, the Stars are 7-2-0 against the East. With an 8-3-1 mark at the American Airlines Center, Dallas currently has the seventh-best home record in the league. The Caps are 5-5-1 on the road this year and where have a road goal differential of minus-5.
But this is still the same Washington team sporting two of the NHL’s top scorers in Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin along with the league’s fourth-best power play and eighth-best penalty kill.
It’s a challenge Stars center Steve Ott
is ready for.
“You always want to face the best scorer in the league to measure yourself up against him. Washington’s from the East and they’re the best in the league right now,” Ott said. “They have extremely dangerous players. It makes it an extremely fun battle. We don’t get to see those guys very often.”
In the win over the Pens, Dallas set a favorable early tone with two quick goals and Pittsburgh seemed to play catch up the rest of the night. The Stars know that getting off to a similar start against Ovechkin and Company is crucial.
“They’re going to be coming with speed all over the ice,” Neal said. “We know that. We’ve just got to stay tight and do the things that we’ve been doing to win hockey games. We’ve got to get off to a good start. That first goal is big for us. We feed off that.”
On March 3, these teams met in Washington. The Stars overcame a two-goal deficit after two periods in that one to eventually prevail 4-3 in the shootout. Dallas hopes for a similar result this time around.
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