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              Stars @ Capitals Preview         by: Sparky      March 11, 2002


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Dallas Stars
Washington Capitals
March 12th, 2002   7:00 pm
       The Stats
Dallas Stars
30-23-7-4, 71 points
8th, Western Conference
0-0-0-1 vs. Washington
2.66 Goals/Game (15th)
2.62 GAA (18th)
17.3% PP (8th)
82.1% PK (26th)
17-11-2-1 on road

2.40 G/G
2.40 GAA

2.70 G/G 
2.50 GAA

Top Scorers
M. Modano - 31
J. Nieuwendyk - 22
J. Lehtinen - 18
M. Modano - 27
P. Turgeon - 24
D. Sydor - 24
M. Modano - 58
J. Nieuwendyk - 44
J. Lehtinen - 41
Belfour 17-22-7 2.68  .896
Turco 13-5-0  2.16  .917
Sparky's Take
Magic 8-Ball
       Sparky's Take
The Dallas Stars arrive in DC with a 3-0 spanking at the hands of their perennial boogiemen, the New Jersey Devils, fresh in their minds.  The Stars are fighting desperately for their playoff lives for the first time in a decade and currently occupy the #8 spot out West.  This game is the first of a vital 4 game road swing for Dallas and they should come out hungry.  Dallas has strung together some big wins behind back-up goalie Marty Turco, filling in for the space alien who has taken over Eddie Belfour's body.  According to most sources, however, Belfour will get the start in DC and the Caps have to be wondering whether they'll face the focused Eddie who is impossible to beat or the frustrated Eddie who lets in goals like Corey Hirsch in the preseason.  Dallas is led by their imposing group of centers (Modano, Turgeon and Nieuwendyk), but don't get much production from their wingers besides 2nd liner Jiri Lehtinen.  Their blueliners can be deadly, though, featuring Darian Hatcher, Darryl Sydor and Sergei Zubov among others.  

Then we have your nation's Capitals. The Caps are coming off of a big win against the speedy Edmonton Oilers at MCI, sparked by Peter Bondra's first hat trick of the season.  Washington is fighting for a playoff spot, any playoff spot, in the East and is desperate for every point they can get.  This game is doubly important because it is the last home game for almost three weeks as the Caps embark Thursday on an 8 game road trip starting in San Jose and ending 15 days later in New Jersey.  Lately the Caps have been led by the tremendous production of Adam Oates and Jaromir Jagr.  In the last couple of games, however, Jagr has cooled and Bondra has picked up the slack as best he can piling up 6 goals in the last 3 contests.  Sergei Gonchar is hot for the Caps as well, and Steve Konowalchuk is playing solid hockey since his return from the IR.  The Caps know they need to win this one to keep up with Carolina, the Rangers and Montreal in the East, so expect a great game between desperate teams.

Players to Watch:
Eddie Belfour is having his worst year since he was traded from Chicago to the Sharks in 1996-97.  He started out the year OK, but his play has worsened steadily and he now posts an uninspiring 17-22-7 record to go along with his 2.68 GAA and .896 save %.   He hasn't won more than 3 consecutive games all season, and has won 3 in a row only twice.  He's only started once (the 3-0 loss to the Devils on Sunday) since getting yanked in back to back games just after the Olympic break where he gave up 6 goals on 15 shots in 54:31 of ice time.  Belfour is rumored to be on the trading block thanks to the stellar play of Marty Turco, so if the Stars falter he could be on the road to Ottawa, the Rangers, or another goalie-light Eastern Conference team.
Pierre Turgeon is really turning things on after a disappointing start to the season, and not a minute too soon. The man who didn't want to be a #1 center is finally jelling with Rucinsky and Lehtinen and has 10 points (5-5-10) in his last 9 games despite being shut out against the Devils.  His defensive play is improving too.  He's -1 for the season but +6 in those nine games.  Turgeon has decent size, very good speed, is an above average distributer of the puck and has a wicked little wrist shot.  His backhand shot is under-rated, but watch out for him coming around the side of the net. 
Capitals fans remember Rob DiMaio from last season in Carolina.  This scrappy forward is quietly having a good year in a third line checking role for the Stars.  He's undersized but has good speed and has a knack for getting to loose pucks.  He plays like he's a lot bigger than his 5'10", 190 lbs. frame and has a good reputation as a team first guy around the league.  He knows the Capitals well and had some good games against them in the past.  The Calgary native is the kind of player who can be the spark plug for a big game or a turnaround in momentum.  He'll play mostly against Bondra's line, most likely, as he and his linemates aren't quite big enough to keep up with Jagr but are fast enough to try to keep Bondra and Niko in check.

The Stars are desperate for points, the Capitals are desperate for points.  The Stars #1 goalie is having an off year and is struggling with confidence, the Caps #1 goalie is having an off year and is struggling with confidence.  The Stars are led by their top line center, the Caps are led by their top line center.  These two teams are very similar in most respects and are in virtually identical positions at this point in the season.  Expect the game to be very close, just like the last one.  Don't bank on Ken Klee getting the game winner, though, Jagr is due for a big night.

Prediction: 4-2 Caps
       The Matchups




Penalty Kill


Beyond the centers and Joe Nieuwendyk the Stars struggle.  The Caps have more depth right now.

Inconsistency haunts the Stars while the Caps make one or two critical breakdowns/game.  Even right now.

Marty Turco has been stellar.  Belfour will start.  Kolzig isn't entirely his Vezina self, but at least he isn't rusty.

The Washington PP is dominant at home, but the Stars are excellent too.  Slight edge Caps, but not by much.

Both teams struggle on the PK, despite recent improvements.  This one is probably based on goalie performance.

The Stars will show up to play and so will Belfour.  The Caps have got to be dreading the upcoming road trip.

If goaltending play is even then the Caps should be able to pull this one out.  Belfour is a real wild card, though.
       Magic 8-Ball Says...
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27-28-10-1  65 points
10th, Eastern Conference
1-0-0-0 vs. the Stars
2.71 Goals/Game (11th)
2.98 GAA  (27th)
19.8% PP (3rd)
82.8% PK  (22nd)
18-11-5-1 at home
16.39% road PP
73.53% road PK
2.80 G/G 
2.20 GAA

3.00 G/G 
2.50 GAA

Top Scorers
P. Bondra - 33
J. Jagr - 23
S. Gonchar - 21
A. Oates - 54
J. Jagr - 36
S. Gonchar - 31
A. Oates - 65
J. Jagr - 60
P. Bondra - 55
Olaf Kolzig 23-25-7, 2.85, .903
C. Billington 4-4-2, 3.04, .881
"Will the Capitals win against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night?"

"Outlook not so good"

Uneaven play leads to a close game.  The Stars may avenge their OT loss to Kenny Klee in Dallas.  5-4 Stars in OT.

Magic 8-Ball's Record: