For both the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars, the 2016-17 season has defied expectations in a disappointingly unexpected way. Anaheim went into the season with Stanley Cup expectations — so far, they’ve only been able to tread water in a weakened Pacific Division. The Stars, coming off a year where they took the league by storm with a “must-see T.V” offense, also expected to be Cup contenders in 2016-17. A rash of early-season injuries have had their part to play, but Dallas has been downright bad, posting a 17-16-8 record.
Yet, at the halfway point of the season, both teams also have room for optimism. Anaheim sits tied for first place in their division, while Dallas is within striking distance of a wild-card spot. Both narratives will converge on Tuesday night — two teams desperately in need of points on a nightly basis.
The Stars managed to beat the Los Angeles Kings the night before in a wild affair, but they’ll be met by a ticked off Ducks’ squad that was outplayed by the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night. With crucial points on the line, there should be a playoff-like intensity to this one. Not bad for a Tuesday night in early January.
Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks
Honda Center – 7:00 p.m. PST
TV Broadcast Channels: PT25, FSSW
Radio Broadcast Channels: AM 830, KTCK-AM
Dallas Stars: 16-16-8, 40 points
Road Record: 5-10-4
Key Injuries: Mattias Janmark, Ales Hemsky, Antoine Roussel, Julius Honka, Jamie Benn
Patrick Sharp – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin
Curtis McKenzie – Radek Faksa – Brett Ritchie
Jiri Hudler – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Lauri Korpikoski – Devin Shore – Adam Cracknell
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Stephen Johns
Johnny Oduya – Jordie Benn
Anaheim Ducks: 21-13-8, 50 points
Home Record: 13-5-2
Hot Players: Ryan Kesler, Rickard Rakell
Key Injuries: Simon Despres (LTIR), Nate Thompson (LTIR), Clayton Stoner (upper body, 4-6 weeks)
Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Joseph Cramarossa-Rickard Rakell-Corey Perry
Nick Ritchie-Antoine Vermette-Ondrej Kase
Logan Shaw-Chris Wagner-Jared Boll
Cam Fowler-Sami Vatanen
Hampus Lindholm-Josh Manson
John Gibson (expected)
1) Great news for Dallas meant terrifying news for Anaheim on Monday, as it was reported that Jamie Benn could potentially make his return to the lineup Tuesday night. Benn, a bonafide goal-scorer, hasn’t been quite himself this season.
— SportsDay Stars (@dmn_stars) January 10, 2017
Though 10 goals through 38 games might be a good season for some players, it’s a decidedly mediocre one for Benn, who notched a whopping 41 tallies last year. His shooting percentage is at a three-year low, so it’s not out of the question that he turns things around in the second half and finishes with far more than the 20 goals he’s currently on pace for.
2) The 22-year old Brandon Montour has been a welcome addition for the Ducks. His willingness to get involved on the rush has given Anaheim some added bite, yet it’s his intelligence puck management in the neutral zone that has been truly impressive.
Once rolling along smoothly, Ducks see their power play starting to sputter. https://t.co/E1Vh6wy2Ll
— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) January 10, 2017
As good as Montour has looked, his presence alone hasn’t been enough to jolt a dormant Ducks power play. Dominant through the first half of the season, Anaheim’s power play is currently in its roughest stretch of the season. Perhaps Ryan Getzlaf’s absence has something to do with that.
3) Kevin Bieksa’s presence on the power play has been a point of contention all season long in Anaheim. Bieksa, clearly on his last legs as an NHL player, has been a fixture on the Ducks’ second unit all season long. In fairness to head coach Randy Carlyle, former bench boss Bruce Boudreau also utilized Bieksa on the man advantage.
Clear focus for Ducks in this practice. Power play.
1st unit: 17, 37, 67, 4, 45
2nd unit: 50, 10, 33, 47/2, 71
Discuss among yourselves.
— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) January 9, 2017
That shouldn’t absolve Carlyle of any blame, however. With four excellent offensive defensemen in his lineup, there’s essentially no reason to even consider using Bieksa in that situation. Keeping the veteran in the lineup in the face of statistical abhorrence is one thing, but using him in a situation that he’s obviously not needed in is another. And yet, it was reported that Carlyle has no plans of taking him off the power play anytime soon. Go figure.
4) A scare rippled through the hockey world over the weekend, as it was reported that Dallas’s team plane had to perform an emergency landing due to smoke emanating from the cockpit.
Dallas Stars plane forced to make emergency landing because of smoke in cockpit https://t.co/P5mM6mp5zF
— #HockeyWeekNBC (@NHLonNBCSports) January 8, 2017
No one will ever forget the tragic incident that led to the demise of the KHL’s Lokomotiv team, so the news that no one was hurt or even remotely bothered in the process was a welcome sigh of relief.
The Ducks are tied for first place in the Pacific with the San Jose Sharks, yet the Edmonton Oilers are just a point behind them, while the Calgary Flames are now just four points away. And then there are the Kings, who despite an oddly mediocre season, are just six points shy of Anaheim in the second wild card spot. Darryl Sutter’s men have once again been a dominant team at even strength, making them an opponent that the Ducks would probably gladly avoid in the playoffs.
Sunday night provided no reprieve for Carlyle’s squad, as they were firmly outplayed by the Wild. The Ducks have shown that they’re capable of playing much better hockey this season, and they’ll have to prove it against a speedy Dallas team. Anaheim cruised to a division title last season, but this season’s run is shaping up to be anything but a joyride.