Monday, January 26, 2004

GameDay: @ Dallas (23-20-8-0, 54) 8:00 EST

Tonight is the third of four games these two teams will play this season. The Wings dominated the first two and have out scored the Stars 10-2 this year. They shut the Stars out 4-0 in the first game on October 24 and Pavel Datsyuk scored that famous goal that everyone remembers on Marty Turco in their 6-2 win on November 12. The Wings will be playing their fifth and final game in what has been a disastrous out-West trip for them where they have gone 1-2-1 and earned just three of a possible eight points. They are just 10-11-4-2 on the road this year. Compare that to their 18-4-2-0 record at home and you get a picture of the Wings' road troubles this season. The Wings are a mere 3-for-38 (7.9%) on the power play over their past eight games and are just 5-for-10 on the penalty kill over their previous two games after going 31-for-32 in ten. On Saturday night, they gave up three power play goals and two shorthanded (one empty netter) to the Coyotes, not a team known for special teams prowess, in a game they otherwise dominated, though they lost 5-2. Nick Lidstrom had this to say: "We've had some good puck movement on the power play. I think we can take more shots and create scoring chances that way, instead of maybe making that extra pass. I think we've been somewhat fancy sometimes. On the (penalty kill), we have been playing well. But the last couple games, we haven't been as strong. I think we've missed assignments and they've been taking the puck to the net easy on us. That's something we can do a better job at." The Stars aren't any better on the road (10-14-4-2) but have been good at home (13-6-4-0) despite having an iffy year overall. They have been coming on lately and will be looking for a third straight win and fifth in six games tonight. They beat the Blues 3-2 on Saturday after shutting them out the night before 2-0. Dallas is 10-4-4 in their previous 18 games but are just 3-2-2 in their past seven home games with only eleven goals during that stretch. They have three "All Stars" on their team (ha!): their captain Modano, Guerin and Turco but Modano has been the least All Star-like of the three with just eight goals, 28 points and a -18 plus-minus rating. All three players, by the way, were voted in by fans who most likely just saw a name and had no idea how they were performing this season. There's a good chance that Curtis Joseph will start tonight though the Wings might try to shake things up by starting Manny Legace instead. In the six games since Joseph was told he might not be traded after all, he has gone 1-4-1 with a 3.11 GAA and a .882 save percentage. I'm not saying those losses were all his fault but he has not been as strong as he was after returning from the minors on December 9. He went 8-2-1 with a 1.79 GAA and a .926 in the eleven games before this current stretch. After giving up four goals on eight shots during Saturday's game with the Coyotes, Joseph said "It wasn't my best game, for sure. You know what? It's not going my way. As a goalie, you want to be your team's best player and best penalty-killer, and tonight I wasn't, so it didn't work out. I'll be back." Jiri Fischer will return to the ice after serving his one game suspension for head butting Ian Laperriere Thursday night in LA. Darren McCarty had his best skate since injuring his back on November 8th. Head coach Dave Lewis said "That's a real positive sign. The arrow's pointing in the right direction. We'll see how he is tomorrow." The Wings need to win this game if they want to save any kind of face and come home with any kind of feeling of accomplishment after having a fairly awful trip. They can't finish the trip better than .500 but they can at least make a statement in preparation for some big games coming up this week and the next couple following. They will play New Jersey and Carolina at home before going on the road to play Nashville and Colorado. After that they will face San Jose and Colorado at home. That's not going to be an easy stretch of games and they'll need to get a jump start by at the very least playing an exceptional game tonight. Or things could get ugly. They should have enough frustration built up to play hard tonight and pull off a win. Freep News ESPN


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