Dec 16, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) and Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) battle for the puck during the first period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Avalanche - Stars

Who: Dallas Stars (15-12-5)

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

Your (unconfirmed) Starting Goalies: COL – Jean-Sebastien Giguere (7-1-0), DAL – Kari Lehtonen (12-8-5)

The Dangermen: This will be the fourth meeting between the teams already and the results have been the same throughout – two goals in each game, though Tyler Seguin, the star of the show for Dallas, had a goal and an assist in last night’s 6-2 loss in Colorado.

Jamie Benn has the points, but he’s struggled of late, with just two goals, two assists over his last ten games. He’s capable of a breakout performance at any time (see his five assist effort against Calgary a month ago), so he’s still worth watching.

Despite being a little top-heavy, they can still score with most teams. They sit 10th in the league (Colorado is 8th) in goals-per-game and, outside of Benn and Seguin, is mostly a collaborative effort. The fact that the Avalanche have held them to just six goals in three meetings this season is a testament to how well the Avalanche have performed defensively this season.

The Defenders: Remember how dicey things were going into last night’s game? It just got worse now that Aaron Rome is out with the dreaded lower-body injury. He joins Stephane Robidas (leg) and Trevor Daley (ankle), who are already on injured reserve.

The Stars sdipped to 24th in the league in goals-against-per-game at an even 3.00 and are struggling to give their netminders much help as their ranks are being thinned out. The remaining core of Sergei Gonchar, Brendan Dillon and Alex Goligoski is okay at best and will be depended upon even more now to come through for the Stars.

Dallas really needs the youngsters like Kevin Connauton (who scored last night) and Jamie Oleksiak to step up and mature much quicker than expected or things could get even worse.

Puck Stoppers Inc.: I’m not sure if Lehtonen will get back-to-back starts, but he is the workhorse of the team.  All things considered, he was pretty good last night despite giving up six goals. He turned aside 42 shots and helped keep the Stars in it through a turbulent first period that saw them outshot 21-10.

If it’s not Lehtonen again, it’ll be journeyman backup Dan Ellis. To say that he hasn’t been good this year would be an understatement. His record of 3-3-0 is okay, but his 3.19 GAA and .901 save percentage leave lots of room for improvement. Getting Ellis tonight should be the motivation the Avalanche need to repeat their performance of a night ago.

Dec 16, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Dallas Stars right wing Alex Chiasson (12) and center Tyler Seguin (91) react after a goal during second period at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

How the Avs match up: Few teams limit the Stars offensively quite like the Avalanche do, but you would think by the fourth start, the Stars will figure it out enough to get past that. Still, shut down the top line and limit the opportunities their struggling power play gets and you’re pretty much home free.

The Avalanche, meanwhile, have to feel good after last night. Not only did they win, but they got Paul Stastny off of his skid, Nathan MacKinnon scored and they got goals from three different defensemen. Methinks they’re going to try to continue with a few more shots from the point and hope for a bounce or two.

As far as goaltending, Giguere this year is on even footing with someone like Lehtonen, but if it’s Ellis the Avalanche have a clear and distinct advantage in net.

Key Matchup: Offense vs A Repeat Performance

Cower in fear if: I would say “if they don’t STAY OUT OF THE DAMN BOX” but the Stars power play is struggling haaaard right now, going just 2 of 23 lately.

The Avalanche follow up last night with a flat effort on the road tonight.

Giguere stops being SuperGiggy.

Laugh maniacally if: Giguere continues to be impenetrable.

Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots.

The bounces continue to go Colorado’s way.

Silly predictions: Hey, remember when I said Gabe Landeskog would get back on the score sheet? That’s tonight I was talking about; Duchene continues his hot streak (five points over his last three games); Jamie Benn snaps his funk; Max Talbot, come on down.

Final:  4-3 Avalanche

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 Gabriel Landeskog Jamie Benn Matt Duchene Nathan MacKinnon NHL Paul Stastny Tyler Seguin

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