With the exception of a post-Christmas overnight trip to Arizona, the Dallas Stars have been at home for just over three weeks, playing seven of their last eight games at the American Airlines Center.
Wednesday night, they’ll finish out their homestand against the road-weary Montreal Canadiens. For the visitors, Dallas is the sixth stop on a seven-game odyssey which began in Columbus December 23.
Montreal arrives in Dallas after an emotional 2-1 overtime win in Nashville last night. The game marked defenseman Shea Weber’s first appearance in Music City since the Predators traded him for P.K. Subban last summer, and Nashville’s former captain received a warm reception.
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) January 4, 2017
Tonight’s match-up presents an interesting contrast: The Habs come in “warmed up” after playing last night, but fatigue could be a factor later in the game. On the other hand, the Stars haven’t played since New Year’s Eve, so they enter the game straddling the line between “well-rested” and “rusty.”
“They’re [Montreal] definitely thinking they’ve got to get the jump early, but at the same time, we’re also focusing on the fact that we haven’t played in three days,” said Stars winger Brett Ritchie. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re ready right off the hop…That will definitely be a focus for us, to get all over them [early], make it feel to them like it’s going to be a long night.”
Montreal Canadiens at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:00 pm CST
Broadcast channels – FS-SW, SN360, SNO, SNE, RDS
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season
Montreal Canadiens: 23-9-6 – 52 Points
Road Record: 8-6-4
Hot Players: Alexander Radulov, Max Pacioretty and Shea Weber
Key Injuries: Alex Galchenyuk, Andrew Shaw, David Desharnais, Andrei Markov and Greg Pateryn
Max Pacioretty – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Paul Byron – Torrey Mitchell – Alexander Radulov
Artturi Lehkonen – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Flynn
Daniel Carr – Michael McCarron – Chris Terry
Alexei Emelin – Shea Weber
Nathan Beaulieu – Jeff Petry
Mark Barberio – Ryan Johnston
Dallas Stars: 16-15-7 – 39 Points
Home Record: 11-6-3
Hot Players: Kari Lehtonen, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza
Key Injuries: Jamie Benn, Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky
Patrick Sharp – Tyler Seguin – Jason Spezza
Curtis McKenzie – Radek Faksa – Brett Ritchie
Jiri Hudler – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Devin Shore – Adam Cracknell
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Stephen Johns
Johnny Oduya – Jordie Benn
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap] Stars captain Jamie Benn is out tonight. The question is, will Antoine Roussel return to the lineup? “It’s really just up to him,” coach Lindy Ruff said after the morning skate. “He’s got the type of thing that he’ll know whether he can play or not. It’s totally out of my hands.” Roussel will skate in warm-ups tonight before deciding whether or not he’ll play.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] If Roussel does play, either Jamie Benn will be placed on injured reserve or another player must be sent down to the AHL, since the Stars are already at the 23-man roster limit. If Benn goes on IR, he’d have to miss Saturday’s game in St. Louis. If a player is sent down, odds are it will be either Lauri Korpikoski or Adam Cracknell, though Devin Shore is also a possibility. Of the three, Shore is the only one who can drive down to Cedar Park without passing through waivers.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] It’s worth mentioning that the situation above wouldn’t exist if the Stars only carried seven, rather than eight, defensemen. Could they send down a blueliner, instead of a forward? Sure, but Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns are the only waiver-exempt d-men. Ruff already indicated Johns is playing tonight and Lindell isn’t going anywhere, so a forward must go.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] Tonight marks Ruff’s 1,450th NHL game as head coach, which moves him past former Canadiens bench boss (among others) Dick Irvin and alone into fourth place on the NHL’s all-time list. In his career, the Stars’ coach has 718 wins, good for fifth all-time.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap] Jiri Hudler turns 33 today. Tonight, he’ll play on his birthday for just the third time. Hudler tallied a goal and an assist in the first two “birthday” games, so he’ll try to keep that unique streak alive against Montreal.
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.