When: Tuesday, December 13, 7:00 p.m.
Opponent: vs. Dallas (16-11-1)
UPDATE: Larry Brooks reports that Mike Sauer has not been around the Rangers and will not make the trip west to St. Louis and Phoenix. (11:02 a.m.)
UPDATE: Marc Staal skated with his teammates this morning for the first time since being shut down in early October. Staal and Wojtek Wolski both were wearing non-contact jerseys today, but Mike Rupp has been cleared for contact. (10:47 a.m.)
UPDATE: Erik Christensen will skate in place of Sean Avery again. Henrik Lundqvist will start in net. (10:27 a.m.)
EARLIER: Dallas got off to a surprising start in 2010-2011 and led
the Pacific Division deep into the season.
As a result, the Stars chose to hang onto pending unrestricted free
agent Brad Richards with hopes that the 31-year-old could help drive the
bankrupt franchise into the postseason.
Richards suffered a concussion and the Stars missed their
chance to acquire even a single asset for their No. 1 center. Instead, Richards signed a nine-year, $60
million deal with the New York Rangers this summer.
Dallas replaced Richards with free agent signings Michael
Ryder, Radek Dvorak and Sheldon Souray and few imagined that the club could
compete in the Western Conference.
But just like last season, Dallas has gotten off to a strong
start and currently leads the Pacific Division.
The Stars obviously miss Richards, but his departure has been mitigated
by the emergence of Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson.
Dallas will get reacquainted with its former No. 1 center on
Tuesday night when the Stars visit Madison Square Garden.
It could be a bit of a bitter pill for the Stars to swallow,
as Richards has quickly carried the Rangers to new heights.
He’s the lone major addition to a team that squeaked into the
playoffs last season, but trails the current Eastern Conference-leading
Philadelphia Flyers by a single point this year.
Perhaps even more sickening for Dallas is that several of
the various young pieces the Stars might have been able to obtain for Richards
last year – Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer, Derek Stepan and
Artem Anisimov – have improved dramatically this year and look like bona fide
stars in the making.
Dallas has done pretty well for itself thus far, but the
chinks in the Stars’ armor are growing more obvious. The Stars are just 5-8-1 in their last 14
games and their early season run may be drawing to a close.
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen had emerged as a shocking early
Vezina Trophy contender before succumbing to a hamstring injury, which has kept
him out of action since Thanksgiving.
Andrew Raycroft has struggled mightily in his stead.
And after a torrid start, Benn has just five points in his
last 12 games and the Stars’ undermanned offense is beginning to struggle to
produce. Now San Jose trails Dallas by a
single point and seems like a sure bet to overtake the Stars, perhaps by the
end of the week.
Meanwhile, Richards and the Rangers are only getting
better. Richards has 12 points in his
last nine games (five goals, seven assists) and has already produced 11 power
play points this season.
He’s a big reason why New York has won 14 of its last 18
games and has joined the ranks of the NHL’s elite.
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