Stars look to cool Capitals
DALLAS — After going 2-1-1 in their Eastern Conference road trip, the Dallas Stars get little respite as they return home to oppose the sizzling Washington Capitals on Tuesday at American Airlines Center.
“Yeah, they’re a good team, obviously,” Stars goalie Ben Bishop said of the Capitals following practice on Monday. “They’ve won 10 of 12, so they’re feeling it right now. It’s just going to be a matter of staying disciplined in our systems and with penalties. That’s a very dangerous power play, so you don’t want to be giving them any extra opportunities, so that’s going to be a big thing.”
Washington has the NHL’s seventh-best power play, converting 20.75 percent of its opportunities, so minimizing the Capitals’ chances with the extra attacker is imperative for Dallas to have a chance of prevailing Tuesday.
Dallas (18-14-2) concluded its road trip with a 2-1 overtime loss at Philadelphia on Saturday, a game in which both Flyers goals came on the power play.
The Stars have been on the penalty kill this season more than all but three other teams, but first-year coach Ken Hitchcock doesn’t see his team’s rash of penalties as an area of concern.
“No, it comes and goes. Always happens to younger players,” Hitchcock said of the Stars’ penalties. “What has happened is it’s been the younger players who are learning to play in the National Hockey League, but also quite frankly is what happens when you have a poor stick. There’s not many young players that have good sticks. That’s a learned skill that takes time. A lot of our younger guys are learning how to do that properly.”
Dallas, 10-4-0 at home and 10-0-2 in its past 12 games against the Capitals, continues to be without defenseman Marc Methot (knee).
“He’s not close. He lasted 30 minutes in instructional and 10 minutes with us, so he’s not ready. He’s not ready to join us on a full-time basis,” Hitchcock said. “He might join (the Tuesday) pregame skate, but he hasn’t gotten through a practice yet, so I can’t give you an exact date. He was to go a little bit longer (Monday); he didn’t, he wasn’t able to. We’ll review it (Tuesday) and start again (Tuesday).”
Hitchcock named Bishop as the Tuesday starter in goal but declined to say which goaltender he would give the nod to in the two huge Central Division home games later in the week: Thursday against the Nashville Predators and Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Both guys (Bishop and backup Kari Lehtonen) are playing awful well right now. That’s an awful good sign,” Hitchcock said. “We got confidence in either guy. These are heavyweight teams that we’re playing that are on real long hot streaks right now, so goaltending’s going to be a major factor here if we’re going to win some of these games.”
The Capitals (21-12-1), who are 8-6-0 against the Western Conference, are one of the NHL’s hottest teams.
Washington, which defeated the visiting Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in overtime on Saturday to start a run of four straight against West foes, figures to get a nice boost from the return of forward TJ Oshie to the lineup. He missed the previous four games due to a concussion.
“I want to get back in there and join in on some of the fun,” Oshie said after practice Friday.
And if Oshie is fully recovered, Capitals coach Barry Trotz will be more than happy to welcome him back into the rotation.
“TJ’s a real good player for us,” Trotz said. “He’s a big part of what we do, and if he healthy and ready to go, I have no problem putting him in the lineup.”
Washington is 7-7-1 on the road. Tuesday’s game marks the start of a four-game road trip that will also take the Capitals to Arizona, Vegas and back East to play the New York Rangers before returning home.
For whatever reason, Dallas is one place where Washington has had trouble getting wins. The Stars have earned points in their past 12 home games against the Capitals, who haven’t won in regulation in Dallas since Oct. 17, 1995, when Washington won 4-3 at the Stars’ former home, Reunion Arena.
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