Blue Jackets-Stars Preview
Friday, 10.14.2011 / 10:38 AM
While the Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets are both unhappy with their play, their results are vastly different. The Stars look to begin 4-0 at home for the first time in 13 years Saturday night when they meet the winless Blue Jackets in the opener of a home-and-home set. Dallas (3-1-0) has won all three home games under rookie coach Glen Gulutzan to take the early lead in the powerful Pacific Division. The Stars, who won their first five home games in 1998-99, were the only division team not to make the playoffs last season. Kari Lehtonen has been spectacular with a 1.30 goals-against average in starting the three games at American Airlines Center, making 36 saves in Thursday's 3-2 win over St. Louis. "Our game is still not there," Gulutzan insisted. "We have a lot of work to do before our goalie gets too tired." Columbus (0-3-1), meanwhile, is off to its worst start. The Blue Jackets gave up a tying goal with 40 seconds left in the third period of Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss to Colorado. The expectations were high for a franchise with one playoff appearance after acquiring goal-scorer Jeff Carter from Philadelphia and signing defenseman James Wisniewski and winger Vinny Prospal. The Blue Jackets, instead, have fizzled in going 0 for 20 on the power play. They went 0 for 4 on Wednesday in front of 8,986, the smallest crowd to watch a regular-season game at Nationwide Arena. "It's obviously not the way we wanted to start the year," said Carter, who has yet to score after leading the Flyers with 36 goals last season. "There was a lot of excitement coming into the season about the team. The fans showed that on the first night. If we expect fans to come out and cheer us on and pay their hard-earned money to come out here, we need to start putting wins on the board." There may not be too many fans in attendance for either of this set of games that concludes Tuesday in Columbus. The Stars drew their smallest-ever crowd of 6,306 fans for Monday's 3-2 shootout win over Phoenix, and Thursday's attendance was announced at 7,949, with only about half that many in the seats. Dallas could be poised to keep Columbus struggling on the power play, having killed off 21 of opponents' 23 chances. "Our players and our coaches have worked hard on the PK," Gulutzan said. Lehtonen has posted a 1.18 GAA in winning his last five home starts, dating to a 3-0 win over Columbus on April 5 for his 17th career shutout. He's 2-2-1 with a 1.39 GAA against the Blue Jackets. Loui Eriksson has scored in consecutive games. He had gone seven straight games against the Blue Jackets without a goal before scoring in Lehtonen's shutout in April. "Now we have a game on Saturday here against Columbus, and it's going to be a big game for us again," Eriksson said. Eriksson will likely take aim at struggling Steve Mason, who has posted a 3.24 GAA in starting the Blue Jackets' first four games. Mason is 2-1-0 with a 1.68 GAA in three career starts at Dallas.