The Oilers appear solid, 2nd in the Pacific Division at 13-4-0, but are returning to the road looking for better results than on their last trip.
The Stars are on a 3-game winning streak at home, but duplicated their uneven start last season. Generating offense has been a problem for the Stars going back years to Jim Lites’ call of Benn and Seguin, and despite their defensive strength at a Cup Final appearance 2 years ago, it didn’t. wasn’t enough to make qualifying for the playoffs very easy.
With a squad packed with veterans, you’d think Coach Bowness’s seat is getting hotter and hotter, so the Stars should play with a level of urgency. Things got messed up recently with player-only meetings and Riley Tufte’s late scratching, which may or may not affect the proceedings as the Stars are undoubtedly expecting more of themselves.
It looks like Holtby won’t come back from a lower body injury to start in goal for Dallas tonight, so the Stars will go with Oettinger while the Oilers appear to counter with Skinner. Both young goaltenders looked promising at the start of the season and gained more ice time with each start.
THE KEYS TO THE GAME
- Clean up the breakouts. The Stars’ top line centered by Hintz is extremely effective in creating and capitalizing on turnovers in the attacking zone. Not only will that put the puck on the attack, but it’ll likely be enough to keep Dallas off the scoreboard.
- Penalty Kill: Despite their poor offensive output, the Stars have a good power play. Staying out of the box and the Oilers’ usual brand of strong killing will be crucial.
- Reach hard ice. The Stars have a certain scoring talent, but clearly not enough to afford to bring less than their most dangerous, let alone who their opponents are, speaking of what …
- Hope and pray, rather, contain McDavid and Draisaitl. The Stars have a strong blue line, big physically imposing crosses and one last change. They will have to use all the advantages they have to keep the duo at bay.
Hyman – McDavid – Puljujarvi
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – McLeod – Kassian
Perlini – Ryan – Turris
Keith – This
Russel – Bouchard
Broberg – Barrie
Dallas: Glendenning seems like a game time decision, in which case we’ll see Kero move to that location.
Robertson – Hintz – Pavelski
Raffl – Benn – Gurianov
Kiviranta – Seguin – Glendening
Peterson – Faksa – Radulov
Lindell – Heiskanen
Suter – Klingberg
Hanley – Hakanpaa
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Edmonton: Most of what I see from Oilers fans, when it comes to negative comments about forwards, is about 4th liners going in or out of the roster, that is, the problems of good teams. The group at the front remains the same, with the exception of Ryan and Perlini who replace Benson and Sceviour. Become the player to watch of the month, Ryan mcleod has maintained itself as a 3rd line center, which is of course an extremely important development. As he’s just established himself, Tippett probably needs to see him deliver steadily over the next couple of months before fully handing over the role, but so far he’s been solid.
In Game 1 without Nurse, Tippett relied heavily on pair Keith – This, but I expect Evan bouchard will begin to outperform both in ice weather over the course of the month or so. The nurse is absent. He’s still young, so maybe it’s a question of when more … than if, but early on, Bouchard showed he is a leading defenseman on both sides of the puck.
Philippe Broberg looked pretty good in his first game and showed signs of skill in the NHL with simple, smart passing and the ability to skate the puck to avoid trouble. It is likely that the Oilers will hope that this experience allows Broberg to get his feet wet before returning him to the ground, but it is very promising for the future to have seen this before. He might not be able to earn a regular place in the lineup just yet (who knows with injuries), but at the very least he will win some of those who doubted him as the top prospect.
Dallas: if you haven’t been able to attend any Stars game since last year, be aware that the Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski line has been leading the charge for some time now. Pavelski is approaching the age of 40, but is still dangerous in the lunge thanks to his notable deflection abilities, as well as being a threat with a pass or shot. Robertson has enjoyed a finalist season at Calder, as the big winger is an offensive force who can not only read Pavelski well, but also increase the overall abilities of the line with quality puck skills and good shooting. Meanwhile, Hintz is tall and quick, a threat across the neutral zone, and has arguably been the Stars’ most dangerous forward for the past 2-3 seasons, albeit limited by lingering injuries. All 3 have great stick checking capabilities. Other than that, Benn, Seguin and Radulov don’t quite live up to their reputations and don’t get much offensive help outside of Gurianov. The Stars probably need more offensive skills injected into this group of attackers to become a rival team again.
The blue line is the strength of the team, at least on paper, led by Miro Heiskanen which is always a pleasure to watch. That says a lot about him and the team he’s leading the Stars in points this season. Maybe Klingberg and Suter aren’t quite what they used to be, but going forward the Stars have prospects at the back that should keep the squad strong for years to come.
Even the deep players in this Stars formation, in particular Hakanpaa and Faksa, are fairly responsible and more used than most of the lower lines in the league. The two will likely play a small role in shutting down McDavid and Draisaitl.
The situation in net is certainly interesting, as the Stars have signed 4 NHL worthy goalies. Bishop is injured as it has been a lot lately, so much so that it is unclear if or when he might return. Holtby was recently signed to a one-year contract worth around $ 2 million, but has just suffered a lower body injury that has caused him to miss about a week so far. Khudobin still has a year on his contract and has taken them into their Cup race, but like Koskinen and Holtby at this point, it’s ideally a tandem option. It would be simple without the emergence of former 1st round Jake Oettinger, who appears to be on his way to the starting role. It’s hard to say how all of this will change, even in the short term, but it’s likely that the Stars will move a goalie at some point before the trade deadline, whether to buy or sell.