Oct 15, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Dallas Stars center Jamie Benn (14) passes the puck between Colorado Avalanche defensemen Erik Johnson (6) and Jan Hejda (8) during the third period at Pepsi Center. The Avalanche won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Avalanche - Stars

Who: Dallas Stars  (5-6-1)

When: Tonight, 8:30PM EST/6:30PM MDT

Your Starting Goalies: COL – J.S.Giguere (3-0-0), DAL – Kari Lehtonen (4-2-1)

The Dangermen: The story remains much the same since the last time the Avalanche and the Stars met; a 3-2 Colorado win in Denver. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn continue to lead the way offensively. Seguin and Alex Chiasson are tied for the team-lead with five goals apiece and are to be watched at all times.

Oct 28, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) heads into the Buffalo Sabres zone during the first period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The team has had an inconsistent start this year, but have come around of late, going 3-2-1 in their last six and looking improved. Still, if the Avs can shut down the top line of Benn-Seguin-Erik Cole, it puts a lot of pressure on the less productive  group of Stars and perhaps even more on Chiasson. Making the Stars get their offense from the lower lines is something that doesn’t seem to suit them well on paper.

I’ve been high on Valeri Nichushkin and will continue to be so. He’s only got two assists in 11 games, but he’s got the skill set to be dangerous. Dallas is a middling offensive team outside of their top three, so they’ll need to get something going elsewhere to win.

The Defenders: This isn’t a very good group overall. Yeah, the Stars are middle of the pack in goals against per game, but I think it’s fair to attribute a good chunk of that to Lehtonen.

The team gives up 33.6 shots per game (25th in the NHL) and has a penalty kill in the bottom half of the league. Not only that, but they really are only getting offensive production out of Brenden Dillion, who has three goals and six points in the dozen games to date.

It’s no secret by now that the Avalanche are a fast, aggressive team.  With no one to make them pay physically, this group can attack the Stars defensemen and make things happen with little repercussions. Charge the net, get in Lehtonen’s face and make the defense work for every clear they get.

Puck Stoppers Inc.:  I think it’s safe to say the Avs would rather see Dan Ellis again, no? Instead, they get regular starter Lehtonen.  He’s have himself a very solid season so far: 4-2-1, 1.66 GAA and a .945 save percentage.

He’s capable of stealing a game or two and will keep the Stars in a lot of games they don’t belong being in. The Avalanche will need to test him early and test him often if they want to crack him.

Oct 28, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) shoots as Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) looks for it and center Cody Hodgson (19) tries to screen the play during the third period at First Niagara Center. The Stars beat the Sabres 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Behind him is Ellis, who is at the very best, an okay spot-starter. He’s 1-3-0 so far and could see his backup job threatened depending on how Jack Campbell progresses. My guess is that as long as Lehtonen is around and performing, they’ll let Campbell get the bulk of the action in the AHL.

How the Avs match up: This would be a much easier answer if things hadn’t been so crazy the last few days.

It’s believed that newcomer Max Talbot will slot in on the third line next to John Mitchell and Nathan MacKinnon (Jamie McGinn still might be letting his knee heal) and the top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene will be joined by P.A.Parenteau.

Oh, and there’s also that whole business with Semyon Varlamov being arrested and whatnot. If the team comes out and plays a flat game, I wouldn’t be surprised nor would I blame them. There’s a little bit of turmoil going on. Hopefully, they’ll use that to fuel the “Why not us?” train and run over the Stars on the road.

Key Matchup: Avs vs turmoil

Cower in fear if: The Avs just aren’t into it.

Giggy looks human for once.

Line switches disrupt things a bit.

Laugh maniacally if: Giggy is not human, but a being from a Super Quebec Race that sees pucks bounce off them from all angles.

STAY OUT OF THE DAMN BOX.

Matt Duchene/Ryan O’Reilly continue their reign of terror regardless of who their wingman is.

Silly predictions: Duchene has another “did he seriously do that?” moment; Lehtonen looks dynamite; Parenteau scores in his first game with the new line; the Avs take no penalties.

Final:  3-2 Stars

Ryan is the editor of Mile High Sticking as well as co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to talk Avs, Sabres, hockey in general, or to let him know what a yutz he is.

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Tags: 2013-14 Season Colorado Avalanche Dallas Stars Featued Kari Lehtonen Matt Duchene NHL Ryan O'Reilly Semyon Varlamov Tyler Seguin

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