New York Hockey: Dallas Stars

W2W4: Rangers vs. Stars

December, 13, 2011

At a glance: Brad Richards will face his former Stars teammates for the first time as a New York Ranger, with the Blueshirts looking to collect their third straight win. The Rangers capped a back-to-back set this weekend with decisive wins over Buffalo and Florida. The Stars, losers in two of their last three games, play the third of a five-game road trip Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Richards reunion: The 31-year-old star center spent three-plus seasons with Dallas before inking a nine-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers in July. Traded to the Stars in a blockbuster deal hours before the trade deadline in 2008, Richards helped lead Dallas in a surprise trip to the Western Conference finals that season. The team missed the playoffs the next three years, however, a determining factor in Richards' decision to move on and test the market.

Beating the best: Tuesday will be the second straight game the Rangers square off against a division leader. The Blueshirts host the Pacific Division-leading Stars after toppling the Southeast Division-leading Panthers 6-1 on Sunday.

Missing Lehtonen: The Stars are still without starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who is on injured reserve with a groin strain suffered last month. Lehtonen enjoyed a tremendous start to the season, posting a 13-4-1 record with .926 save percentage and 2.34 goals against average. Richard Bachman made his first NHL start in Saturday's 2-1 win over L.A.; Andrew Raycroft made the previous four starts for the Stars.

Special teams: Both the Rangers' power play and penalty kill have been strong throughout the team's 7-1-1 stretch. The team has tallied a power-play goal in each of the last four games and is 10-for-37 (27 percent) with the man-advantage over the last nine games. The Rangers' penalty kill is 24-for-26 over the last eight, good for 92.3 percent.

Cleared for contact: Veteran forward Mike Rupp has been cleared for contact. The 31-year-old, who skated Tuesday morning, will make the Rangers' upcoming two-game Western Conference trip but is unlikely to play.

Sauer still out: Defenseman Michael Sauer remains out with a concussion suffered last week against Toronto. The 24-year-old is still considered day to day but has not skated with the team since sustaining the injury.

Bottom line: The Rangers have a chance to roll to their third straight win against a Stars team that is among the elite in the Western Conference. With one game in hand, the Blueshirts trail the streaking Philadelphia Flyers by only one point for the Eastern Conference lead.

At deadline, Rangers show restraint

March, 1, 2011
With the New York Rangers in the heat of the playoff race, it’s doubtful too many fans were content to see the NHL’s trade deadline pass with 26-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs center John Mitchell the only name added to the roster.

With two goals and an assist in 2010-11 with the Leafs before being sent to the AHL, Mitchell’s best asset is probably his ability to win faceoffs. He posted a 55.7 faceoff percentage before his demotion. Though his role with the Rangers remains to be determined, that's an area the team could use some help with Chris Drury unlikely to return this season.

For fans keen to obtain Dallas Stars C Brad Richards, the top name on the trade market and one linked to the Rangers throughout Monday, Mitchell is a rather poor substitute. But a look at the big picture should temper that disappointment.

First, there’s the break from the usual Broadway “seize the back page” playbook that demands grandiose (and often irrational) action. In the wake of the Knicks’ trade for Carmello Anthony, and the city’s ensuing love affair with the hoops star, there could have been pressure for Glen Sather to follow suit and sacrifice a deliberate (and so far fruitful) internal rebuilding plan for the quick fix. Rather than chase headlines, the Rangers showed restraint.

Second, the Rangers will now still have the assets they didn’t trade away. Looking at this roster, the Blueshirts were probably not going to be a serious Cup contender this season, and have probably overachieved given their injury situation and the down year by Marian Gaborik. That speaks to the job John Tortorella has done installing a system and a mentality that the Rangers’ room has bought into. If you have a good thing going for you, you don’t want to mess with it if the cost is too great ... which brings us to point No. 3.

There’s always this summer. Richards hits free agency July 1 and the Stars' ownership situation may very well still be in flux. The Rangers should have plenty of cap space to sign the Star and based on yesterday’s buzz that New York was the only team to which Richards would accept a trade, you’d have to think he has interest in coming here. In that case the Rangers can nab him for cash alone, even if he can’t help with a cup run this season.

There was a report yesterday that the asking price for Richards consisted of Artem Anisimov, a pick and a prospect. One person familiar with the situation said the cost was much steeper however. So steep, the Rangers were apparently unwilling to pay it.

In the short term, it seems that reluctance will cost them a strong shot at the Cup. In the long term however, it could be the decision that leads to a hard charge at the hardware for years to come.

Fast start fades as Devils fall in OT

October, 8, 2010
The Devils started their season opener on fire but ultimately went down in flames, refunding a 2-0 lead and losing to the Dallas Stars 4-3 in OT.

After Travis Zajac and Zach Parise gave the home team a two-goal cushion and, along with prize free agent Ilya Kovalchuk, brought the sold out crowd at Prudential Center to its feet, the Stars rallied to send the game to the extra period, clinching the victory on a laser-sighted wrist shot from Loui Eriksson past Martin Brodeur.

Needless to say, it wasn't the start to the season, or John MacLean's head coaching career, that the Devs were looking for. A few points to consider before tomorrow's game in Washington against the Caps:


+ Happy Returns

Along with Kovalchuk, Parise and Brodeur, Jason Arnott received the biggest cheer during the team introductions. He further endeared himself with an absolute bomb from the point to put the Devils up 3-2 in the second period. With Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner manning the points, the second power play unit has an old school look, that’s for sure.

+ First Impressions

A little over seven minutes into the game the Money Line of Parise-Zajac-Kovalchuk had lit the lamp twice on a pair of 2-on-1 breaks off the rush. Shortly after the second goal, Kovalchuk ripped a shot off the post, but it bounced away. Stars bench boss Marc Crawford said after the game that the lucky bounce was the biggest turning point in the game. In the end, it was Dallas' top line that laughed last, accounting for three goals on the night including the game-winner.


The Devils just couldn’t build on the lead. They were outshot for most of the first period and badly outshot (12-5) in the second. Chief among the team's problems were two points noted in the blog's game preview post.

- D-men
The first Stars goal was a direct result of the Devils' inability to clear the puck from their zone. The third goal was straight off a giveaway by Andy Greene. About a minute after the Greene giveaway the Devils gave up another chance that squirted across Brodeur’s crease. Less than a minute into the third period it should have been 4-3 Dallas, but Eriksson fanned on a perfect set up in the low slot.

This was the Devils’ undoing against the Flyers in last season’s playoffs. It bears watching tomorrow night when the blueliners will get a stiff test from the Washington Capitals.

- Secondary Scoring
With the first line firing early, it didn't seem like this would even matter. On the Parise goal, Lehtonen was definitely not looking at the puck, but kept glancing around to eye Kovalchuk and Zajac even as Parise bore down on him. Against this top line early on, it wasn't good enough to have your head on a swivel, you needed three heads. But the freewheeling start screeched to a halt by the second period.

The Devils had little success at even strength after the first seven minutes and struggled to sustain the forecheck. Even the top line only had success off the rush in the first period (granted, it was a lot of success off the rush). Only the Clarkson-Zubrus-Roslton line really had much success keeping the puck in the offensive zone for any substantial time. In fact, though they didn’t get on the score sheet, they may have been the team’s best line after the first seven minutes. The lack of secondary scoring will be a much bigger issue on the road tomorrow when MacLean can’t control the line matchups.

Notes and Quotes

- For the most part, MacLean and the players sited repeated small mistakes as the deciding factor in tonight's game.

"We turned the puck over at the offensive blue line all night and with their good transition game, they're going to make you pay for that," Parise said. "It's mental mistakes, but we're on the right track. We had a great third period, we just didn't score. When we started chipping it behind their goal line, that's what causes problems. But if you turn the puck over all night, you're causing your own problems."

"All those little mistakes are correctable," MacLean said. "But we need to manage the puck a little better."

- On the young backliners Matt Taormina and Alexander Urbom, MacLean added: "We're going to play them and we're going to go through the learning curve with them." That education will continue tomorrow against a Caps team coming off a 4-2 loss in Atlanta tonight.

- Greene said the seven-man rotation didn't bother the blueliners. "It was good, I thought we worked them in pretty well. There weren't many power plays or penalty kills so that makes it easier."

- Taormina and Henrik Tallinder led the D in ice time with just over 21 minutes. Alexander Urbom was the low man with just under nine.

- Despite the loss, the players are psyched about the team's top line.

"They're all so skilled," Tallinder said. "They just find each other so well on the ice."

- And in case anyone cares, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance tonight.

W2W4: Stars vs. Islanders

October, 8, 2010
In preparation for tomorrow’s season opener, here are five points to watch for when the Islanders take the ice against the Dallas Stars at Nassau Coliseum.

John Tavares 2.0
I admit I didn’t have to dig to deep for this one, but it’s tough to overlook former No. 1 overall picks. Everyone’s excited to see what Tavares can bring to the rink this season. Can he equal the Steven Stamkos-redux hype? How much better can he make his teammates? If the Isles want a shot at the playoffs this season, Tavares will have to far surpass his freshman point total of 54. It’s only one game, but tonight we’ll get a chance to see how far he’s come since last season.

El Niņo
Two reasons to watch the wunderkind: The first is sheer talent. He’s the team’s top prospect for a reason and fans will want to see what he can do in a regular-season environment. Second is whether he can hack it in the NHL or whether he’ll be sent back to juniors to save a year on his contract. Given the current injury predicament, Niederreiter has ample opportunity to stick with the big club, but if he looks overwhelmed, there’s no sense forcing the issue and holding him beyond the nine-game trial run.

Special Teams
The Islanders’ single biggest deficiencies last season came with an uneven number of skaters on the ice. New York ranked 27th on the power play and 29th on the penalty kill. In Game 1 we’ll see if there’s been any improvement or whether the units are still works in progress.

Is anyone there?
Tickets to the opener are being heavily discounted (up to 40 percent off). The Stars aren’t exactly a sexy opponent, but it is the season opener. If the place is half full (maybe I should say half empty), that would be another sad note on which to start the season.

With a nod to Johnny Drama, let’s be honest, after the past month of injuries, the Isles need some good news in a bad way. Beating the Stars won’t win the Cup, but it will generate a little positivity and break up the steady stream of punches the team’s been absorbing since Mark Streit went down. And hey, the kids in Edmonton got it done against the Flames last night (behind a beautiful goal by rookie Jordan Eberle), so why not the Isles too?

Morning Links