Scouting report: Dallas Stars

Published Dec. 17, 2010 10:46 p.m. ET

By Eric Smith
Friday, Dec. 17, 2010

The struggling Dallas Stars come calling on the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night. With both teams looking for answers, someone will leave the game still searching and the other hoping they found the answer to start a winning streak.

The Stars (18-10-3) have lost four of their past six games, but they have earned at least a point in four of those games. The Stars are 11-3-2 at home but only 7-7-1 on the road. The Stars average three goals a game in Dallas and 2.47 on the road. The defense and goaltending also struggle away from home, allowing average of 3.07 goals a game on the road compared with only 2.38 goals against at home.

It all goes to special teams. The Stars' have 17 power-play goals and a 23 percent success rate at home, but on the road they have only four man-advantage goals for a paltry 7.7 percent score rate.

The penalty-kill unit also struggles away on the road: an 84.8 kill rate in Dallas and 73.6 percent on the road.

The Stars are glad to have Kari Lehtonen (13-7-3) back in net. He missed four games because of a tight back but returned in Dallas' 4-3 overtime loss to San Jose on Thursday. Lehtonen didn't get a chance to ease back: He faced 43 shots and turned away 39. The Finland native needs to be the backbone for this club as it is allowing an average of 31.4 shots on goal.

If the back issue continues to bother the star goalie, it will make it impossible for the Stars to retain their current second-place standing in the Western Conference. Lehtonen is 2-0-1 in his past three road starts.

Center Brad Richards has been a thorn in the side of the Blue Jackets. He scored a goal visited Columbus on Dec. 6 and had 24:44 of ice time. It seemed he never left the ice.
Richards is averaging more than a point a game: 35 points in the Stars' first 31 games.

The Blue Jackets (16-12-3) come back from Western Canada licking their wounds. They went 0-1-2 on the trip and lost 6-3 at Edmonton in the finale. Back home, their the blueprint to beat the Stars is laid out:

No. 1: Bring more than a six-shooter - The Jackets outshot the Stars in their last contest 29-18, and more of the same is in order. The Jackets need to get north of 30 shots on Lehtonen, preferably with a heavy amount of traffic in front of him. Look for R.J. Umberger and Tom Sestito to go to the front of the net while shots come from the likes of Rick Nash, who scored a goal in the last game against the Stars and registered six shots; Kristian Huselius, who is coming off a hat trick against the Oilers; Derick Brassard; and Jakub Voracek.

On the reverse, Columbus did a nice job in not allowing the Stars to get many pucks at Mathieu Garon (7-3-2), only 18 in the last meeting. I fully expect Garon to get the net again this time, and keeping the shots south of 20 would certainly make it easier to get a victory.

No. 2: Hit and run