Once upon a time, the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars were bitter division rivals. But now, memories of Derian Hatcher breaking Jeremy Roenick's jaw are fading away as the Stars continue to make their home in the Central Division.
Dallas journeys to Arizona tonight for the first game between these two teams this season. The Stars enter as a team on the rise, while the Coyotes are caught at a crossroads.
Matchup at a Glance
|Dallas Stars||Arizona Coyotes|
|Points||80 (2nd Central)||58 (4th Pacific)|
|Goals For||3.21 (2nd)||2.62 (16th)|
|Goals Against||2.66 (19th)||3.04 (27th)|
|Power Play||21.1% (7th)||19.3% (15th)|
|Penalty Kill||80.0% (19th)||78.0% (26th)|
|5v5 Corsi For||53.5% (2nd)||46.8% (28th)|
|PDO||99.0 (25th)||100.7 (T-5th)|
View from Dallas
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The Stars have been jockeying with the Chicago Blackhawks for Central Division supremacy for much of the season so far. Currently, one point separates the two clubs, though the Blackhawks have two more regulation/overtime wins. Dallas is where they are thanks to an electrifying offense featuring Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Patrick Sharp.
Dallas on the back-end has been less than electrifying however. The team sits in the bottom half of the league in goals against, while the goalie tandem of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen has been average at best.
In short, Dallas is a team whose offense is going to carry them a long ways, but it remains to be seen if they are capable of hanging with the league's best in a seven game series.
View from Arizona
Arizona did what good teams are supposed to do Monday night: beat bad teams and beat bad teams badly. A 6-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at home was exactly that; Arizona scored a pair of power play goals and in general ran rings around the hapless Habs.
Tonight's adversary is a far different test though. Lindy Ruff is coaching the team well, and Dallas has far greater skill up front than the Habs had. For a young defensive corps which is still giving up frustrating goals, stopping these forwards should be a task of Herculean proportions.
Keys to the Game
1. Don't Get In a Track Meet - There are quite a few parallels between the Coyotes and Stars. The difference is Arizona is just adopting the Dallas model, while the Stars have veteran forwards with speed and skill. If Arizona tries running with Dallas, they may not be able to.
2. Fire Shots on Net - Niemi and Lehtonen are not playing at an elite level. The more they have to work, the more Dallas won't be able to attack Louis Domingue.
3. Make Something Happen on Faceoffs - Arizona has been good at winning faceoffs all year, but that success means nothing if Arizona can't make something happen off of those draws. Winning offensive zone faceoffs and putting the puck in the hands of Arizona's playmakers will be critical to maintaining possession.
Players to Watch
Dallas' answer to Oliver Ekman-Larsson is John Klingberg, who has 10 goals and 38 assists in 58 games played this season. It should only be a matter of time for Klingberg to start getting Norris Trophy love, though if OEL's awards history is any indication, he may wait longer than he should.
Mikkel Boedker is the player to watch for both teams, though not necessarily for the right reasons. It seems more and more obvious that Boedker is on his way out. Might the Stars be a potential destination?
Travis Moen is on injured reserve for the Stars, while Jason Spezza is considered questionable for tonight's game.
For the Coyotes, both Joe Vitale and Anders Lindback are out for the remainder of the season. Mike Smith will be out until at least March, while Boyd Gordon is considered week-to-week.
Tonight's game gets underway at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.