Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dallas Stars Vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: Game Preview and Final Cuts Analysis

Most previews from here on out will be a bit more professional but with the Stars much like every other team in the NHL rushing to complete their opening game line-ups and stay under the cap with final cuts this preview could get a little rough.

First off the Stars have made it seemingly clear the back-up goaltender will be Tobias Stephan. Stephan got a lot of preseason playing time and even though the team itself struggled the Stars seem confident in his abilities.

The other major issue is who of the young prospects will make the squad. James Neal seems to have impressed the Stars and myself the most. The major issue at hand is what the salary cap room will dictate. The 21 year old Neal is on a non-waiver contract meaning he can go between the AHL and NHL depending on where the team needs him.

NHL rules dictate a maximum of 23 healthy players and generally teams keep 14 of those as forwards. In the past though the Stars have carried 13 forwards and 22 players total to save on the cap.

"Both have proven that they can be NHL players. It's just how quick they can get acclimated and how quick you want to throw them in there," Stars coach Dave Tippett said in Mike Heika’s Dallas Morning News Stars blog.

As the case appears now it seems likely Neal will drop to the minors so that 23-year old Fabian Brunnstrom will play with the Stars. Brunnstrom will make $2.25million this season, the most highly paid of the main forwards fighting for a big club spot. The other players fighting for a spot besides Brunnstrom and Neal are Chris Conner and B.J. Crombeen who have both also had good camps, but seem outshined by Neal’s play and Brunnstrom’s hype.

The Stars seem to like the idea of keeping both from the Star and scratching one, or the other as needs dictate.

The Stars have Tuesday off and will likely make final cuts ahead of Wednesday’s NHL roster deadline. In Monday Coach Dave Tippett had Neal on a regular line with Toby Petersen and B.J. Crombeen while Brunnstrom was on and extra line with Krys Barch.

With the Dust settled:

Regardless of what players go and stay the Stars must focus on starting the season off strong. There will be minor hiccups in some of the minor points but the bottom line is the Stars should win. All bias aside the Stars have the better team, and after only one win in preseason the Stars must show they are capable of living up to the hype that has been thrown around all summer. I myself am included in this hype, as I along with many others touted them as the team to beat.

Questions left after the Stars terrible preseason:

The bottom line is the Stars aren’t the team fans saw in preseason. Turco didn’t start in many games (as the Stars addressed the back-up goalie issue) so that can hurt the win column.

The Stars also played a lot of prospect defenseman throughout, and gave prospects a lot of chances to see ice time. Example: One of the leading ice time defenseman was Matt Niskanen. Likely his time will diminish now to make more room for the usually top dog blue-liners. Don’t be surprised to see more of Niskanen this year on the ice though. The Stars seem poised to keep Niskanen as a future number one defenseman if/when Zubov chooses to hang up the skates.

The Stars other main focus against the Blue Jackets must be sure to stay sharp on the power play and penalty kill. This has been key to the Stars success in the past and the Stars must again find that deadly chemistry again this year.

The Stars face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday October 10, 2008 at 7:30pm in Dallas at the American Airlines Center. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Net Southwest on TV and on WBAP 820AM in Dallas on the radio. Stay tuned after the game for the recap and updated news on the Stars roster. If a reader in the Dallas area, click here to purchase tickets.

Quotes: Courtesy of Dallas Morning News Dallas Stars blog by DMN Stars writer Mike Heika

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