The temperature has fluctuated wildly in Dallas over the past few weeks, bouncing from the upper teens one day to almost 80 the next. It’s only fitting, then, that tonight’s game between the Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars is a battle between hot and cold.
The Capitals arrive in Dallas as red-hot as their home jerseys, 10-0-2 in their last 12 games. They’ve scored five or more goals in each of their last five contests, four of which were against teams currently in playoff position. Two weeks ago, the Caps emphatically ended the Columbus Blue Jackets’ second-best-in-NHL-history win streak at 16 games with a 5-0 victory.
The Stars, on the other hand, are 3-6-1 in their last 10. Compared to the first couple months of the season, they are scoring more…sometimes. They’ve scored four or more goals in four of their last seven games, but the Stars were also shut out twice during that span and managed just one goal against the sub-par Buffalo Sabres.
While the Capitals own the best record in the NHL, the Stars sit five points out of a playoff spot. It’s desperation time in Big D. The Stars need two points tonight, and history is on their side: they’ve won nine straight games against the Caps, dating back to 2008. Fans in Dallas know well what happens when a warm front meets a cold front. Expect a storm at the American Airlines Center on Saturday night.
Washington Capitals at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:00 pm CST
Broadcast channels – FS-SW, CSN-DC+, NHLN
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season
Washington Capitals: 30-9-6 – 66 Points
Road Record: 12-4-5
Hot Players: Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky
Key Injuries: John Carlson
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Brett Connolly-Lars Eller-Andre Burakovsky
Daniel Winnik-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Dmitri Orlov- Brooks Orpik
Taylor Chorney-Nate Schmidt
Dallas Stars: 19-20-8 – 46 Points
Home Record: 12-7-4
Hot Players: Radek Faksa and Patrick Eaves
Key Injuries: Johnny Oduya, Jamie Oleksiak, Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie – Adam Cracknell – Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth – Stephen Johns
1) The Stars had an optional skate this morning. Opting out were Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and coach Lindy Ruff. Raising eyebrows were the assembled media. Given that trio’s underwhelming performances of late, one would suspect those players spent the morning in a room with their coach. What went on in that room is unknown, but it’s a safe bet they weren’t playing bridge.
2) Ruff did say this morning that Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie will play tonight. Ritchie was a healthy scratch the last two games, while McKenzie hasn’t dressed since Jan. 4. The coach explained his decision by saying he wanted bigger, stronger players in the lineup to win puck battles.
3) Lauri Korpikoski skated late, so he’s likely one healthy scratch tonight. The second scratched forward is a mystery, but the consensus of media opinion is that Jiri Hudler will draw the other short straw.
4) Philipp Grubauer will start in goal for the Capitals Saturday, but that’s no consolation for the Stars: Braden Holtby’s backup is 8-1-0 this season, with a 1.96 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and two shutouts.
5) When you think of the Caps, Alex Ovechkin immediately comes to mind. While “The Great Eight” has been on a roll lately, he might not be the most dangerous player the Stars face tonight: Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie each have 3g – 7a – 10pts over the last five games.