Published November 20, 2014
Dallas' recently-completed October was one of the best in franchise history since moving to Texas. The way goaltender Kari Lehtonen has opened the season, November could be a very good month as well.
The Pacific Division-leading Stars look to continue their surge at home to start the campaign against a Colorado Avalanche team that will be thankful to get away from Denver, if only for one game.
Dallas ripped off an 8-3-0 record in October, with that .727 winning percentage ranking fourth-best for the month since the club's relocation from Minnesota. The eight victories and 16 points are also the third-best totals for the month in that time.
The play of Lehtonen has been key to the fast start. He picked up the Second Star for the month after going 8-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and .947 save percentage, setting a club record by winning his first seven starts of the season.
The 27-year-old Finn allowed two goals or less in eight of his nine outings, including last Saturday's 3-1 victory over the Devils. Lehtonen ended that victory with 31 saves and was asked earlier this week what has helped him get off to his great start.
"I think the biggest key is just trying to be little more calm and not do too much. I'm actually finding it a lot easier to play that way too. I think that's been the biggest key," the goaltender said.
Lehtonen has never lost in regulation to the Avalanche, going 5-0-1 with a 2.05 GAA, .927 save percentage and one shutout in eight games.
Vernon Fiddler scored the game-winning goal last weekend for the rested Stars, with the tally going off the skate of a New Jersey defenseman. Loui Eriksson added his team-leading sixth goal in the win and Sheldon Souray scored into an empty net for his 99th career goal as Dallas moved to 5-1-0 at home this year.
"I see us getting better," Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said. "I see our power play is getting better ... our [penalty kill] is getting better and our 5-on-5 stayed strong."
Gulutzan's club will likely be without forward Steve Ott tonight due to a hip issue.
The Avalanche could present a tough challenge for the Stars since the game is in Dallas. Colorado is 6-1-0 on the road this year, but fell to 1-4-0 at home on Wednesday with a 4-1 defeat to the Coyotes.
"I've not been playing well lately," said Varlamov. "No explanations for it. It's our own rink and we have to play better when we're here."
Colorado, which returns home to face Calgary on Sunday, scored just once despite 40 shots on net. It was the club's second-highest shot total of the season, behind only the 41 posted in a 3-1 loss to the Oilers on Oct. 28.
"Yes, it was a very similar game," winger Milan Hejduk said when asked of the comparison between the two contests. "We just have to keep playing the same way, and eventually we will start scoring goals when we put 40-plus shots on net. We need to score more goals at home."
These two teams split their four meetings last year, but the Avalanche are 7-3-2 in the past 12 meetings. Colorado has lost eight of its last 11 in Dallas, though.
The Avs' Paul Stastny has eight goals and eight assists in 16 career games versus the Stars.