SAN JOSE -– Dallas still owns the NHL’s top overall offense, but it’s recently hit a rough patch.
In their last four games, the Stars (29-12-4, 62 points) have scored two or fewer goals, including on Friday night in Anaheim in a 4-2 loss in which they gave up the first four goals in the first period and never recovered.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer expressed the predictable outlook that Dallas will only be more dangerous headed into Saturday’s game against the Sharks (22-18-2, 46 points), as it looks to get rolling again.
“I’d rather have a team come in here winning than losing,” said DeBoer, whose club will be looking for its fifth straight win. “We know what we’re dealing with. They can score goals in bunches.”
Jamie Benn (54 points) and Tyler Seguin (51 points) trail only Chicago’s Patrick Kane (67 points) for the NHL scoring lead. They have lately been skating on the same line with winger Patrick Sharp, who has added 37 points in his first season in green.
“The last game we gave them a little too much time and space, and when you do that they make plays,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic, referring to Dallas’ 5-3 win on Oct. 31 at American Airlines Center. “They’re dynamic players, and it will be a lot of fun playing against them.”
DeBoer said: “They’ve got tremendous offensive depth, and I think our guys know that. The message was loud and clear this morning in our meetings. We’ve got to make a commitment again away from the puck tonight to try and give ourselves a chance.”
While the Stars are among the NHL’s best teams at putting the puck in the net, they also give up their fair share of goals. At five-on-five their team save percentage is .919, or just 25th in the NHL (the Sharks are 26th at .916).
“They have the most chances for, but they give up the most chances against,” Vlasic said. “If we play well defensively we’ll have our opportunities tonight.”
Antti Niemi is expected to start in net, his first game back as SAP Center as a visitor since the 2010 Western Conference Finals when he was still with Chicago.
Any keys to beating their former teammate?
“Shoot, get traffic, get it upstairs,” Logan Couture said. ‘He’s got powerful, quick legs. Covers the bottom of the net pretty well. Get it upstairs. … I’ve got some spots I’ve got picked out if I get a chance on him. Hopefully that helps.”
Niemi, though, made 26 saves on 29 shots in Dallas’ win over the Sharks on Halloween.
Couture said: “I’m sure he knows our tendencies. Maybe we’ll switch it up on him a little bit.”
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Couture had a whopping 11 shots on goal in the Sharks’ 2-1 shootout victory over the Oilers on Thursday. Afterwards, DeBoer said that it was evident that his important centerman was “starting to feel better.”
Does Couture agree?
“I felt I had the puck a lot,” Couture said. “Any time you have the puck and you’re generating chances and shooting the puck a lot you feel confident about your game. I felt pretty good.”
In 12 games this season, Couture has one goal and five assists for six points.
“Obviously I’ve only got one goal this year, so I’m going to try and put the puck towards the net as much as I possibly can,” he said.
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DeBoer relayed the report he got on injured Sharks forward Raffi Torres, who played with the AHL Barracuda on Friday night in Rockford, IL. Skating on a line with John McCarthy and Micheal Haley, Torres did not record any points or shots on goal in the Barracuda’s 5-2 win.
“Got through the game. Looked like he had been out for a long time,” DeBoer said. “But, real positive in that he played a regular shift, felt fine. We all know the timing and conditioning aren’t where they need to be. But, everything was positive.”
The Barracuda play again on Saturday in Iowa, but there was no word on whether Torres would play in the second of a back-to-back as he tries to resume his career after a 41-game suspension and a series of problems with his right knee.