Stars have Sharks number in shortened season

Two recently surging teams in the Stars and Sharks meet at the American Airlines Center on Saturday.

On Friday night in Nashville, the Dallas Stars dispatched the Predators, 5-2, running their winning streak to four and setting up a potential sweep of the back-to-back on Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks at American Airlines Center.

After arriving back from the Music City in the wee hours on Saturday morning, Glen Gulutzan’s club did not have a morning skate to earn some much-needed rest. But the Stars will face a Sharks team that has also recently surged as Todd McLellan’s club heads into the third matchup of the year with Dallas sporting a 4-1-1 mark in April.

However, the Stars have already beaten the Sharks twice already this year and here’s a look at those two previous meetings:

Feb. 23-Nilstorp Earns First Win in 3-1 Home Victory

Cristopher Nilstorp was virtually perfect in net for the Stars on Feb. 23 against San Jose, stopping all but one of the 32 shots the rookie goaltender faced for Dallas. However, the Stars also got a goal and an assist each from Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr while defenseman Alex Goligoski chipped in a pair of assists.

The Stars took a 1-0 lead into the second intermission after Jagr scored on the power play just 58 seconds before the end of the second period. That clear shift in momentum carried over to the early stages of the third as Michael Ryder scored for Dallas early in the final frame, again coming on the power play, to make it 2-0.

San Jose did pull one back when Patrick Marleau made it 2-1 about two minutes after Ryder’s tally, but Benn added an insurance tally with 2:11 left before the final horn and the Stars beat their Pacific Division rivals by two goals. All in all, this game has to rank as one of the Stars’ better home performances this season for a club that has struggled at the AAC for a good part of the lockout-shortened season.

Apr. 7-Stars End Road Trip with 5-4 Shootout Win at Shark Tank

Hands down, this was one wild game, especially in the final two periods. But what the final result also showed was how much sheer heart and determination the Stars have recently been playing with, two qualities which are an absolute must this time of year if they are to end a four-year playoff dry spell.

The Sharks’ Tommy Wingels gave the home team a 1-0 lead and that’s where the game was after one. Brent Burns then gave San Jose a two-goal cushion early in the second before Eric Nystrom and rookie Alex Chiasson answered in fairly short order to make it a 2-2 affair in the middle frame.

However, the Sharks responded with a pair of unanswered tallies to finish the frame in a flurry and with momentum, getting goals from TJ Galiardi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to lead 4-2 after 40 minutes of play.

But the Stars weren’t done by any means and in the third goals from Chiasson, his second of the game and another from Loui Eriksson, an equalizer that forced overtime, made this a 4-4 game at the end of regulation. Following a scoreless overtime, this one headed to the shootout, where the Stars prevailed thanks to rookie Matt Fraser and Benn both converting, giving Dallas a great end to a quick three-game road trip with wins at Anaheim and another in the shootout at HP Pavilion.

Benn and Ray Whitney had two assists apiece for the Stars while Chiasson found the back of the net twice for Dallas. Kari Lehtonen stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced for his 14th win of the season between the pipes for Dallas.

Unfortunately, that has been his last victory for the Stars as in Dallas’ very next game, on Tuesday night against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, he suffered a groin injury with about five minutes left in the first period and had to leave the ice with a bit of help from the Stars medical staff.

Richard Bachman, Lehtonen’s backup for a majority of the year, stepped right in and was stellar to say the least, stopping all 22 shots he faced as the Stars dispatched the Kings, 5-1 at the AAC. Bachman followed up that strong showing with another strong performance on Friday night at Nashville and will likely get the nod in Saturday’s visit from the Sharks.

So, while it is just two games, it is very encouraging that the Stars have already had their share of success this season against the Sharks. And in a time of year where every shift and every point counts, maybe, just maybe they can make it three-for-three on Saturday night at the AAC.