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PREVIEW: Stars (33-26-5) at Oilers (25-32-6)

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 2:49 AM
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PREVIEW: Stars (33-26-5) at Oilers (25-32-6)
Dallas Stars vs. Edmonton Oilers


AT THE MORNING SKATE Edmonton, AB - There's a special buzz in the air when the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers meet. From 1997-2003, the clubs met in the post-season six times, playing 33 spring matches in which 22 were decided by a single goal – nine went to overtime.

While tonight's game likely won't match the intensity of those decade-ago moments, the teams' longstanding rivalry always promises an entertaining 60-minute clash.

Back then, Mike Modano, Derian Hatcher, and even a no-namer (relatively speaking) in Benoit Hogue became the club's archenemies at Rexall Place. None were ex-Oilers, but one whose welcome will echo a similar sound (booing) pays a visit tonight.

Elk Point, AB native Sheldon Souray will play his first game in Edmonton since being bought out in the summer.

"I can only say positive things about him," said Ladislav Smid, who was often seen as No. 44's protégé. "He was a really good teammate, a really good guy. He helped us big time. He's got good leadership skills and I sat next to him (in the locker room) for a season and he was a great guy. I was really young back then and he was helping me along the way."

"He's a big, strong man and is imposing as heck, he's intimidating and he's all those wonderful things that you want in the game" added Head Coach Tom Renney, who coached Souray both in Edmonton, as an associate coach to Pat Quinn, and at the 2005 World Hockey Championship in Austria. "There's always a time in a player's situation where the crosshairs don't quite line up and maybe you handle it wrong, and maybe you wish you hadn't or vice-versa. It doesn't matter. He's not here, but he's had a pretty good year."

After spending the 2010-11 season with the AHL's Hershey Bears, on loan from the Oilers as part of the parties' messy breakup, Souray returned to the NHL this season and has rebounded nicely. The 6'4", 237-pound rearguard has potted six goals and 20 points, along with 61 penalty minutes in 51 games.

In many ways, he's still the same player that was, during the 2008-09 campaign, an all-star in orange and blue.

"Obviously he's really good on the power-play," explained Smid, noting his cannon from the point. "He has one of the hardest shots in the NHL and it's pretty scary sometimes. He brings a strong physical presence, too, and is really hard to play against. He'll be a challenge to go up against tonight."

Smid shouldn't be worried. The 26-year-old has had an equally as stunning season, ascending the NHL's shot-blocking rankings to the fourth spot overall, sacrificing his body to absorb 149 pucks en route to his goalie.

Even with Souray's bomb incoming at over 100mph, his mindset hasn't changed. His pain threshold may have to, however.

"I'm trying not to think about it," he said, laughing hysterically. "It's pretty scary. But if he's got a chance to take a shot and I'm out there, I'm going to try and go down and block it.

"We need a win. That's the bottom line and that's part of my game to help out there."


Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who's scored two goals and three points since returning to action, will have a new linemate on his left side tonight. Lennart Petrell will move up to play alongside him and Jordan Eberle – a reward for strong play and an indication that the rookie Finn's skill-set can help that line produce even more.

"You get a play a little bit more, and these guys are really skilled, really talented guys," Petrell said. "The main thing is not to get carried away or think about it too much. I still need to work really hard, create turnovers. That's the way I play and I'm not going to try and change too much."

"If you look at my shooting percentage (16.7-percent), I'm pretty much a goal-scorer by those standards," he added, laughing.

Renney, who stressed the importance of giving Petrell this opportunity, is eager to see the 27-year-old impart ‘his' game in a scoring role.

"You'd like to think it's like riding a bike. The problem is, it's somebody else's bike," he laughed. "[Petrell] has to play the way he plays, and we love that in him. He's a real, hard-working two-way guy, he's smart, he understands what his attributes are and what he has to do contribute to that line. He's got to use his size and strength to create an advantage.

"Lennart's played well. I'd like him to shoot, too, because he's got a very good shot."

In the end, it's something the entire squad needs to bring in order to topple their opponent as they battle tooth-and-nail for a post-season sniff. Dallas is currently in with 71 points, one up on the hard-charging Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche, and two up on the Calgary Flames.

"It's an important game for them, but it is for us too," said Smid, who will continue to guard the club's top pairing with Jeff Petry tonight. "We still have 19 games on the schedule and we want to win as many as we can. We need to do all the things we talk about in the locker room; being strong in our own end, playing physical, keeping things simple, limit our turnovers. If we do all that, it should be enough to win the game."

Strong goaltending will help, too. Devan Dubnyk got the hook in Wednesday's 5-2 loss to St. Louis after allowing three goals on 19 shots. Nikolai Khabibulin hasn't started since Feb. 19 vs. Vancouver, but is ready to return to action and will get the start tonight. He's amassed a 12-16-5 record, along with a 2.60 goals-against average and .914 save percentage this season.

-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick

NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW Last 10: Dallas 5-3-2; Edmonton 4-5-1

Season series: This is the third of four meetings between Dallas and Edmonton. The Stars took both games at Dallas by a 4-1 score. The teams split the two-game series at Edmonton in 2010-11.

Big Story: Dallas continues its fight for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, while Edmonton continues to play the role of spoiler. Although moving up in the standings is still possible, the Stars' first concern is beating out the red-hot Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings for the eighth seed.  

Team Scope:

Stars: Dallas starts its three-game road trip Friday at Edmonton after going 2-0-1 over its recent three-game homestand. The Stars can also establish a three-game road winning streak with a victory at Edmonton.

If the Stars hope to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season, they will need to continue grabbing at least a point in mostly every remaining game on the schedule, similar to what they did in a shootout loss vs. Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Dallas forced overtime off a Michael Ryder goal midway through the third period but eventually lost the game, 4-3, following a four-round shootout in which Ryder was stopped by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to seal it for the Penguins. The Dallas loss snapped a four-game winning streak.

"I thought both teams played hard and well. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the extra point," coach Glen Gulutzan told the team's official web site following the game.

Oilers: With one of the youngest rosters in the League, boasting rising stars such as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it's only a matter of time before the Oilers finally find themselves competing for a postseason spot. But with only 56 points through 63 games, this does not appear as if it will be the breakout season for Edmonton.

Regardless of the Oilers' place in the West standings, they will still look to ruin their competitors' playoff hopes as they play out the rest of the season. Friday's game will see the Oilers trying to bounce back from a 5-2 loss to the visiting Blues on Wednesday. The Oilers hardly competed vs. St. Louis as they fell behind 3-0 by midway through the second period. While Nugent-Hopkins put his team within striking distance with a goal in the closing minute of the second period to make it 3-2, the Blues exploded out the gates in the third with two unanswered goals to put it out of reach.

"(The Blues are) a team that played the game the right way," coach Tom Renney said. "One thing they won't do is beat themselves, much like we did."

Who's Hot: Wednesday's shootout loss ended Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen's three-game winning streak. He has a 1.50 goals-against average over the last four games played. … Hall is in the midst of a five-game point streak for the Oilers, tallying 3 goals and 4 assists over that span.

Injury Report: Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin missed the last two games with a strained groin, while defenseman Theo Peckham is on injured reserve with a facial injury. … Jamie Benn returned to the Stars' lineup Wednesday after missing the previous six games with a leg injury. The Vicotira, B.C., native notched a goal against Pittsburgh. Forwards Brenden Morrow (neck/back) and Jake Dowell (finger) are on injured reserve.


Stat Pack: Nugent-Hopkins continues to put up numbers worthy of Calder Trophy consideration as he was third among NHL rookies in scoring, as of Wednesday, with 38 points (15g, 23a).

Puck Drop: It's important for the Stars to keep up their solid play as a playoff spot is anything but guaranteed. To get that push over the edge, Dallas will need a continued healthy lineup working on its team chemistry. Getting Benn back for the game against Pittsburgh was a big step in the right direction.

"It felt good to get out there and play," Benn told NHL.com regarding his return to the lineup Wednesday. "I hated having to watch games. I love the energy and confidence of the team right now." 

-- Eric Goodman, NHL.com

2011-2012 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 28 '12 DAL 3 at EDM 1 M. Ribeiro
Mar 02 '12 DAL 3 at EDM 1 T. Vincour
Jan 07 '12 EDM 1 at DAL 4 J. Benn
Nov 21 '11 EDM 1 at DAL 4 S. Ott
L. Eriksson65213657+16643
J. Benn54183351+144925
M. Ryder65272148+173255
M. Ribeiro58143448+64424
S. Ott59102131+511942
A. Goligoski5481826-21421
B. Morrow4381422+27441
T. Daley6241822+22212
R. Dvorak6541721-101200
E. Nystrom6016420-32201
V. Fiddler6571320-83801
S. Souray5261420+166121
S. Robidas5941418+03421
A. Burish4861016+45201
T. Wandell606915-51400
T. Vincour33347-6201
P. Larsen38167+111400
T. Petersen38235-7600
J. Dowell43145-34300
N. Grossmann52055+02600
R. Garbutt8101+0001
M. Fistric49011-13300
A. Pardy26011-61000
J. Benn2011+0000
K. Barch10000-22300
F. Wathier1000+0000
M. Fraser1000+0000
K. Lehtonen4525-15-410212952.30.921
R. Bachman147-3-1323792.58.916
A. Raycroft102-8-0313033.52.898
J. Eberle60283361+2883
T. Hall54232649-330127
R. Smyth64172441-36044
S. Gagner57152641+63250
R. Nugent-Hopkins44152338-6831
S. Horcoff64111930-201640
A. Hemsky5152429-142711
R. Jones61141125-63421
C. Potter4741519-181810
T. Gilbert4731417-41221
J. Petry5721517-91810
E. Belanger6131013-122810
R. Whitney3321012-15820
B. Eager517411-39202
L. Smid643710-14000
A. Sutton413710+66001
L. Petrell46459-74000
M. Paajarvi41268-7400
A. Lander56246-81200
N. Schultz64134-103410
T. Peckham46123-17400
C. Barker21202-11811
J. Green7112-6710
D. Hordichuk29022-44500
C. Teubert20011-41800
R. O'Marra7011+0400
A. Plante3011+0200
P. Cornet2011+0000
T. Chorney5000-1000
L. Omark5000-2200
T. Hartikainen5000-4000
M. Kytnar1000+0000
D. Dubnyk3413-16-1919772.94.907
N. Khabibulin3512-17-5849692.58.913
Y. Danis10-0-02123.75.833