Preview: Struggling Avs Stumble into Dallas

It’s tempting to refer to Thursday’s tilt with the visiting Colorado Avalanche as a “trap game” for the Dallas Stars.

After all, the Avs stumble into Big D in last place in the NHL. No team scores fewer goals per game (2.06) or allows more (3.26). They’re 3-7-0 over the last 10 games, and missing key players in Semyon Varlamov and Erik Johnson. Nearing the midpoint of the season, all Colorado has to look forward to is the NHL Draft Lottery in June.

Kari Lehtonen
Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen makes his third consecutive start Thursday. (Andy Martin Jr)

For this to truly be a “trap game” for the Stars, though, the Boys in Victory Green would need to be safely ensconced in a playoff spot, as they were at this time last year. Injuries to forwards and significant personnel changes on defense combined to produce a wildly inconsistent start to Dallas’ 2016-17 campaign, however, and they currently sit one point out of the second Wild Card spot and six points out of third place in the Central Division.

After making some tactical adjustments at the beginning of December, the Stars are on an upward trajectory. They’re now much more sound defensively, which has lowered their goals-against and dramatically improved team save percentage.

With the improved statistics, the Stars are starting to see results in the standings: They’re 4-1-1 in their last six games, and Tuesday night’s victory in Arizona marked just the second time this season Dallas has strung together back-to-back wins. Against the Avs Thursday, they’ll try for their first three-game win streak of 2016-17.

Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars

American Airlines Center – 7:30 pm CST

Broadcast channels – FS-SW, ALT

2016-17 Season Series: October 15 – Avalanche 6, Stars 5

November 17 – Stars 3, Avalanche 2

December 3 – Stars 3, Avalanche 0

Colorado Avalanche: 12-21-1  25 Points

Road Record: 8-9-0

Hot Players: Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie 

Key Injuries: Erik Johnson and Semyon Varlamov

Projected lines:


Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen

Mikhail Grigorenko – Matt Duchene – Rene Bourque

Blake Comeau – Carl Soderberg – Jarome Iginla

Andreas Martinsen – John Mitchell – Joe Colborne


Fedor Tyutin – Tyson Barrie

Nikita Zadorov – Francois Beauchemin

Patrick Wiercioch – Cody Goloubef


Calvin Pickard


Dallas Stars: 15-14-7 – 37 Points

Home Record: 10-5-3

Hot Players: Kari Lehtonen, Jason Spezza and John Klingberg

Key Injuries: Antoine Roussel, Patrick Sharp, Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky

Projected lines:


Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Jason Spezza

Curtis McKenzie – Radek Faksa – Brett Ritchie

Lauri Korpikoski – Devin Shore – Patrick Eaves

Jiri Hudler – Cody Eakin – Adam Cracknell


Esa Lindell – John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis – Jamie Oleksiak

Johnny Oduya – Jordie Benn


Kari Lehtonen

Game Notes

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap] Kari Lehtonen will make his third consecutive start for the Stars Thursday night. Over his last five starts, the big Finn has a save percentage of .921. The last time Dallas and Colorado met, he recorded his first (and to this point, only) shutout of the season.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] Cody Eakin returns to the ice tonight after serving a four-game suspension for making contact with the impeccably-coiffed head of New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The Stars had an optional morning skate, so his linemates for the evening are anyone’s guess. Given Eakin’s struggles to this point, putting him with Hudler and Cracknell on the fourth line makes sense.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] Per Mark Stepneski, Antoine Roussel and Patrick Sharp are both less-than-healthy and won’t play tonight, while Stephen Johns and Patrik Nemeth are healthy scratches on defense.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] Stars fans should keep an eye on Colorado’s number 96, Mikko Rantanen, tonight. The big, talented rookie right wing is going to be a force in the NHL. As dark as the Avs’ present is, their future is equally bright, and Rantanen’s a big part of that. Mark it: The Dallas faithful will be cursing his name for years to come.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap] Parting Shot: Colorado will be sellers as the trade deadline approaches. Some folks, including The Dallas Morning NewsMike Heika, are beating the drum for Dallas to deal Patrik Nemeth. If the Stars are in playoff position by February, a Nemeth-for-Jarome Iginla deal could make sense for both clubs. Wouldn’t it be nice for the Stars’ first-round pick in 1995 to play at least a few games in Dallas?