The Dallas Stars have been the class of the Pacific Division this season, after being wholly underestimated throughout the entirety of the offseason. The Stars weren't supposed to seriously contend for the division crown with the Sharks, it wasn't even supposed to be close. But they're there now, up at the top, two points ahead of San Jose and on their way to HP Pavilion to take 'em on and attempt to hold them off.
It won't be easy. A regulation victory for San Jose would create a three-way tie at the top of the division, next to the aforementioned Stars and the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks are coming off their second win of the season over the Chicago Blackhawks and have been winners in three of their last four. Ryane Clowe was named one of the NHL's stars of the week following his multi-point game against the Blackhawks, his fourth straight multi-point game.
Clowe scored in regulation to tie the game at one-all, and then added the winner with 1:08 left in overtime to give the Sharks the win. Antti Niemi once again got the win over his former team, saving 28 in the Sharks 2-1 win. Forward Devin Setoguchi and blueliner Kent Huskins missed the game, being the former's eighth-straight and the latter's seventh.
Dallas sorely needs to rebound here. Not only are they a paltry 6-7-1 while visiting this year, not only has their power play unit been non-existent at a league-worst 3-for-49, but the team has lost three of their last four following a six-game winning streak. They were beat by the rival Coyotes 5-2 in their last outing and things won't get any easier in San Jose.
Andrew Raycroft saw the bench after making the start against the Coyotes, allowing five goals on thirty shots. He'll start in net for the Stars tonight, and is seeking his first victory not only in San Jose, but against the Sharks overall. He's 0-5-0 with 3.72 GAA.
The Stars beat San Jose once this season, a 5-4 victory in overtime which took them to five wins in their last seven against the Sharks. They also hold victories in three of their last five trips to San Jose. No word yet on whether Niemi or Antero Niittymaki will be in net for the Sharks.