Whether you see the Dallas Stars as an eventual playoff team this year, there’s no denying that they’ve gotten off to a fast start, becoming the first 10-win team in the league and working their way to the top of the Western Conference standings.
Tuesday’s game at Verizon Center marks the only meeting of the year between the Stars (10-3-0) and Capitals (9-3-0). Both squads have the ability to get defensemen involved offensively and the potential for a plethora of goals.
The Stars scored 12 goals in their last two games and have recorded at least three goals in all but four of 13 contests this season. Dallas is led up front by Loui Eriksson (8 goals, 15 points), Jamie Benn (4 goals, 15 points) and Mike Ribeiro (1 goal, 10 points). When it comes to the spark from the blueline, it’s resurgent veteran Sheldon Souray with 12 points, including a pair of power-play goals.
“I think the biggest thing is try to get as close to him as you can,” Jeff Halpern said when asked how to prevent Souray from unleashing his booming shots from the point. “You don’t wanna let that puck gain any steam and you want to be able to get in the shot lanes. It’s a lot easier to take them off the shin pads and the pant leg than it is to take them off the ankle, so try to get in the way, but because his shot is so dangerous you want to get as close to him as you can before that thing can have eyes.”
Kari Lehtonen has been in net for each of the Stars’ 10 wins this season and is 10-1-0 with a .936 save percentage and 2.14 goals against average. He’s in a different stage of his career than when the Capitals routinely saw him as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers – Lehtonen is 10-6-2 in his career against Washington with a .919 save percentage and 2.80 goals against average.
The Capitals will need to make sure they establish a consistent presence in front of the net and make Lehtonen’s task as difficult as possible.
“He stops pucks really well; you’ve got to get in front of those net areas,” Joel Ward said. “They clear guys in front pretty well. If we can kind of sustain that second-shot pressures — rebounds and tips and whatnot — I think that gives us a better chance of getting a few past him.”