Another gutsy performance from the duct tape B squad last night, with particular accolades finally due for the fourth line. If you remember Vancouver's last loss to Calgary, noted puck master Brian McGratton made Vancouver's sleepy defense and fourth liners pay for their soft coverage in letting him drive hard to the net. Last night, Blackout and crew finally got to practice that script: when James Sheppard made an awful clearing attempt in his own zone, it ended up on Hordichuk's stick who rifled a rocket past Backstrom. It was Blackout's first shot of the season (he ended up with 2 SOG last night, so his shooting percentage is a finely-tuned .500) and first goal in 50 games.
In the second game in his second campaign with the Orca, Mr. Petting Zoo potted a goal that, as Sean said, was very lucky and one Backstrom likely would have had if he was playing on top of his game. Nevertheless, it was the old adage of "put the puck on net" that worked and it turned into a huge goal to pad the lead by two and help end Backstrom's night a period early.
And Johnson? As Mike Russo noted, "Guy is taken off on a stretcher nine days ago, and he has an assist, wins 7 of 9 draws and blocks five shots." Not bad for a guy who doesn't belong in the NHL, eh?
So on a night when the team's best line (Kesler's) finished a combined -5, they found another group of heroes. And, once again, Raycroft played a strong game in net for his fourth win of the year. And best news of all: unless they're being coy, no one was injured. I'm as shocked as you are.
If the rumors are true, then it's likely that both Luongo and happy fists Hansen will slot in for Tuesday's game against the Blues. That means tonight - as they head into Big D to visit with their old coach and the rest of the Stars - could be the last time we'll see the B squad together. Based on the way they are playing, that may not be a good thing. As broken as they are with injuries, their game sure doesn't look broke so why fix it?
At any rate, the Canucks may grab a small break tonight if James Neal, the Stars' leading scorer, can't make it tonight because of a sore groin. The Stars may grab a small break if SOB returns from his suspension and AV decides to let him play again.
Dallas has lost three straight, including 2OTLs, and would probably love to blow up on Vancouver. They're only two points behind the Canucks and, with the exception of Neal, are finally healthy and getting contributions from a number of guys, including Richards, Morrow, Ribeiro and Eriksson. They are also getting Mike Modano back after an extended rib injury. In his first game back on Wednesday, the 39 year old center had roughly 15 minutes and some ample PP time, so expect more of him too. Turco is 4-2-4 with a .913 SV% and a 2.33 GAA.
A good preview is available from Andrew's Star Page which shows some side by side comparisons between the two. Good to see Vancouver has the edge in face-off wins so far (51.3% to 48.1%). Maybe Pudge will be the hero on the stat sheet right there.
As usual, more updates will be posted as we get them. If you see anything, throw them in the comments. For more on the Dallas side of things, do stroll on over to Defending Big D.