Exactly one week ago in Philadelphia, the Dallas Stars surrendered three goals in the final four minutes of the third period, turning a 2-1 lead into a 4-2 loss. Saturday, in the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center, the Stars get another crack at the red-hot Flyers. For the Stars, the location of the game could make all the difference.
Goaltender Antti Niemi is expected to make his third consecutive start Saturday. Since coming to Dallas prior to last season, Niemi has been much better at home than on the road. He was the Stars’ best player in both the win over Anaheim and the loss to the Rangers this week, stopping 62 of 65 shots for a two-game save percentage of .954.
The Stars penalty kill, which allowed three of the Flyers’ four goals last week, is also dramatically better in Dallas than anywhere else. They kill 88 percent of penalties at the AAC, compared to 68.8 percent on the road.
Philadelphia’s improbable win streak has reached 10, but they’ve all been close: six wins came in one-goal games, and four of those were decided in overtime or by shootout. With Niemi in net and a confident penalty kill, the Stars stand ready to stop the streaking Flyers.
Philadelphia Flyers at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 1:00 pm CST
Broadcast channels – FS-SW+, CSN-PH
2016-17 Season Series: December 10 – Flyers 4 – Stars 2
Philadelphia Flyers: 19-10-3 – 41 Points
Road Record: 8-5-1
Hot Players: Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux and Ivan Provorov
Key Injuries: Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Michal Neuvirth
Michael Raffl – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Brayden Schenn – Travis Konecny – Wayne Simmonds
Chris VandeVelde – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Roman Lyubimov
Taylor Leier – Nick Cousins – Dale Weise
Andrew MacDonald – Ivan Provorov
Shayne Gostisbehere – Brandon Manning
Mark Streit – Radko Gudas
Dallas Stars: 12-14-6 – 30 Points
Home Record: 8-5-2
Hot Players: Antti Niemi
Key Injuries: Patrick Sharp, Mattias Janmark, Ales Hemsky
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Brett Ritchie
Lauri Korpikoski – Jason Spezza – Jiri Hudler
Curtis McKenzie – 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] Niemi’s numbers this season are stunning, and that’s both good and bad. The inscrutable Finn’s save percentage at home is .940; on the road, it’s .856. Put another way, “Home Niemi” is a Vezina Trophy candidate, while “Away Antti” is not an NHL-caliber goalie. It’s a shocking divide, and will again be cause for concern when the Stars hit the road in January.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] Cody Eakin was suspended four games by the NHL for his hit on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist Thursday night, so he won’t dress for Saturday’s rematch with the Flyers. The Stars’ centerman won’t return to action until the Colorado Avalanche visit on December 29, and he’ll forfeit $85,555.55 in salary.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] With defensemen Johnny Oduya and Julius Honka healthy again, the Stars had nine defensemen on the roster. Someone had to go to AHL Texas, and Honka, Lindell and Johns were the only blueliners who could be sent down without waivers. Honka drew the short straw this time, but he’ll play top-pair minutes in Cedar Park for now and will undoubtedly make a permanent move back up I-35 in the near future.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] Bring extra cash and prepare to stay late Saturday: Dallas Stars Alumni, including Brenden Morrow, Marty Turco and Ed Belfour, will be selling tickets for the 50/50 raffle before the game, with half the proceeds going to Assist the Officer and the Dallas Stars Alumni Association. Immediately following the Stars-Flyers tilt, the Fourth Annual Stars Alumni Game will be played, featuring the aforementioned former Stars (and others) and officers of the Dallas Police Department.
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.