San Jose Sharks vs Dallas Stars: Will Brad Richards Return?
Riding the wave of a eight-game win-streak, the Sharks looked dominant at times against the Wings.
Antti Niemi posted a 10-2-0 record, 1.89 goals–against average and a strong .934 save percentage to earn the Second Star of the Month for February.
Leading the Pacific Division—and just three points from Detroit—the Sharks have a bit of footing in the tenuous Western Conference. Their run in the new year has been nothing short of elite and the team doesn’t show a sign of slowing anytime soon.
Richards has missed time this year after sustaining a concussion from a Sammy Pahlsson hit on Feb. 13. Richards was widely speculated to be on his way out of town at the deadline to both Toronto and the New York Rangers.
He has 24 goals and 39 assists this year and he is expected to return sometime during the Stars’ current road trip. Having skated with the team on the road, he could make his return at HP Pavillion against the Sharks.
With 75 points, Dallas is tied for eighth in the West and sit right on the playoff bubble tied with Anaheim and Nashville. The Stars dropped the first of their four-game road trip against the Ducks by blowing a 3-1 lead late before eventually falling 4-3 in OT.
The Ducks won their second straight game from a penalty in overtime after beating the Red Wings 2-1.
After sliding out of the playoff picture with a five-game losing streak the Stars had won three straight before their loss in Anaheim.
The Stars are 16-14-1 on the road this year and goalie Kari Lehtonen is 3-1-0 in his last four games, posting a 1.51 goals-against and a .948 save percentage.
Meanwhile, the Sharks still might be without Dan Boyle who was injured in the final minute in a game against Pittsburgh.
What to watch for:
The Demers/Vlasic-Braun/Murray pairings: Both Jason Demers and Justin Braun played a very solid game against the Red Wings, and will be put to the test again versus the Stars. The powerplay looked undisciplined at times against Detroit and the Sharks can't allow those short-handed odd-man rushes.
Jamie Benn: He's been on fire of late for Dallas; he is extremely versatile and is a spark for his team. He scored a late goal against Phoenix to steal a win in regulation and triggered the three-goal second period against the Ducks.
Antero Niittymaki: Antero has missed the last 16 games with lingering groin issues, but has skated recently and feeling good. Could he return against Dallas and spell Niemi, who can use some time off after starting19 straight games?
"It's been feeling good this week, and it felt good today. It's up to coaches and management, but I felt normal," Niittymaki said.
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