Â Wednesday’s Ice Report
Red-hot Stars set for Showdown with Pens: The Dallas Stars (11-3-0, 24 pts) defeated the Washington Capitals (9-4-0, 18pts) 5-2 on Tuesday night, extending their winning streak to four games and now boast the best record in the NHL.
It was a matchup of the No. 2 and No. 3 goal scoring teams and the Stars pulled away in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals en route to a 5-2 win.
Dealing with bankruptcy and losing star center Brad Richard to free agency this past off-season, the Stars have been the story of the NHL season.
Dallas measured up quite well against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night and Friday night they get another matchup with an elite team in the Eastern Conference in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“It’s a good measuring stick for us,” coach Glen Gulutzan said after the game, via Associated Press. “We’re trying to gauge ourselves against the league, coming into Washington and then heading to Pittsburgh and Detroit. Tonight we liked our game. It just gives us confidence moving forward.”
The Stars have a sensational young core, especially upfront, which gave Dallas the ability to move James Neal last season in exchange for a puck moving defenseman in Alex Goligoski they desperately coveted.
Jamie Benn (5G-13A-18Pts, +8) and Louis Eriksson (8G-8A-16Pts, +11) are budding superstars and goaltender Kari Lehtonen is playing lights out, posting an 11-1 record with a 2.13 goals against average and .936 save percentage.
While the likes of Benn, Eriksson and Lehtonen have fueled the Stars hot start, it’s been a two key off-season additions that have also played vital roles in Dallas boasting the leagues best record.
Defenseman Sheldon Souray has finally turned his game around and has 12 points in 14 games and most notably is playing very well defensively with a +10 rating.
Forward Michael Ryder has also been a great fit, with 6 goals, 11 points and a +9 rating.
Green once again struggling to stay healthy: After a 7-0 start, the Washington Capitals have now dropped four of their last six games. To no surprise, Mike Green has been sidelined for the Capitals last six games.
Green when healthy and at the top of his game is what makes the Capitals go, as GM George McPhee has often said but it’s going to be interesting to see how Washington handles Green’s contract situation as he’s entering the final year of his deal and is set to be a restricted free agent at seasons end.
Struggling to stay healthy is becoming an issue after only appearing in 49 games last season.
Some other tidbits on the Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin is 33rd in the NHL with 13 points and Alexander Semin is 141st in the NHL with 8 points.
Wild keeping rolling under Mike Yeo: The Minnesota Wild are rolling under head coach Mike Yeo. Minnesota notched their fifth straight win tonight, shutting out Calgary 3-0, behind a 41 save effort from Niklas Backstrom.
The Wild are 8-3-3 on the season and have the 3rd best record in the West Conference.
Minnesota has been tremendous defensively, ranking 2nd in the NHL in goals against, giving up just 1.79 goals per game.
Former Penguin Nick Johnson is also making his mark with the team. Johnson who was ejected tonight for head-butting Jarome Iginla, has just 3 points on the season in 10 games but Johnson has played a strong two-way game and drawing high praise from Wild beat reporter Michael Russo who wrote tonight during the game via twitter…Â “Just another sensational shift by Nick Johnson draws #mnwild first PP. Nick Johnson was a steal-in-a-frigin-half off waivers.”
*The Edmonton Oilers boast the thirdÂ best record in the NHL with 20 points (9-3-2) and they have a great mix of young players and veterans throughout their lineup and they are a team that is going to continue to get better.
They have key veterans around their young core such as Ryan Smyth who’s having a big year with 14 points and the Oilers could be a force in the Western Conference over the course of an entire season. The Oilers have also yet to get much out of Ryan Whitney and Ales Hemsky thus far due injuries, who figure to be big contributors if they can stay healthy this year.
The story though so far for the Oilers isn’t the young guys but it’s goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin who is 7-0-2 with a 0.98 goals against average, .964 save percentage and has posted two shutouts.
*Ken Hitchcock returned behind the bench and won a Ken Hitchcock type of game in his debut as the St. Louis Blues shutout the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-0.
*The Carolina Hurricanes who dropped to 5-7-3 (13pts) on the season Tuesday night, are among the teams looking to make an early shakeup. While head coach Paul Maurice is safe for now, don’t rule out the Hurricanes being the next team that makes a coaching change.
The Canes have dropped three straight and have a tough stretch ahead facing the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres in their next five games. If things go south, changes will be coming in Carolina.