Dallas Stars - New York Islanders Preview

The New York Islanders will welcome the Dallas Stars to Nassau Coliseum this evening to conclude the season series between the teams. Dallas, the current Pacific Division leaders, has exhibited some streaky form of late. Their 35 points, however, leave them eleven points better than the struggling Isles, though New York has played one fewer game.

Fresh off of 1-0 shutout of a the New York Rangers, coupled with some recent unsteadiness in the New York crease makes Dallas a significant favorite tonight.

Statistically, Jamie Benn leads Dallas with 24 points on the season (7 goals, 17 assists). Eric Nystrom and Loui Eriksson have paced the Stars with 10 goals apiece; winger Michael Ryder has contributed nine.

What’s more interesting, though, has been the streakiness of their club dating all the way back to late October. Since the 27th of that month, the Stars have been either hot or cold, winning four in a row, losing five in a row, then alternating two game winning and losing streaks the rest of the way until now.

On their latest mini-streak, a 2-1 win in Los Angeles and the aforementioned blanking of the Rangers, they received exemplary goaltending efforts from backup Richard Bachman. He saved 33 shots in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and made Dallas’ lone goal stand up. He earned his first career National Hockey League shutout and has spelled Andrew Raycroft nicely after Raycroft’s poor performance against San Jose, a game in which he was pulled.

With Kari Lehtonen still dealing with a groin issue, it will be interesting to see if Dallas Head Coach Glen Gulutzan stays with the hot hand or goes back to Raycroft.

In their last meeting, which occurred on December 3rd, the Islanders rode four Matt Moulson goals to victory, weathering a furious flurry of Dallas tallies in the second period to escape with a 5-4 win. The game was the type that Islanders fans have seen far too many of this season, with one or more periods of lackluster effort by their team.

For the offensively challenged Isles (65 goals on the season, tied for last in the league), it matched their highest scoring output of the season.

Now, though, the Islanders come into this contest having lost three in a row, with the normally steady Al Montoya showing signs of cracking or fatigue and the defense playing poorly. They allowed a total of 11 goals to Pittsburgh and Montreal in the last two games (though one was in an empty net).

Compounding the trouble will be the absence of veteran blueliner Steve Staios, who suffered a concussion during his last game.

Young defenseman Calvin DeHaan will replace Staios and make his NHL debut.

Fans will also see Kevin Poulin in net, who was called up on an emergency basis to replace Evegni Nabakob, sidelined with his own injury. The Islanders have missed the Russian since his last action on November 17th.

The Islanders find themselves in a precarious position at this point in the season. They have earned a mere 24 points so far, and while not technically out of the playoff picture, they are unfortunately working their way toward it. Or not working, in their case.

If you watch the Islanders regularly, by now you know that they only get solid scoring on most nights from their top line. There have been few complaints about Matt Moulson, John Tavares, and P.A. Parenteau, aside from some typical dry spells.

They’re just not a deep team, and now injuries are staring to crop up. While Josh Bailey’s recent play has improved, for some reason defenseman Mark Streit’s has declined.

They sit nine points behind the final playoff team in the East as of this writing, and their lack of consistent scoring, shaky defense, suddenly suspect goaltending, and general streaky nature does not bode well for them.

It’s a long season, though, and a season sweep of Dallas would cure some of what ails them.

The game begins at 7 PM.

You can follow the author on Twitter at @RealKenDick and The Checking Line at @TCLIsles.