The Dallas Stars begin a stretch of seven of their final 10 games at home with a Tuesday night battle against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A Vital Stretch Begins for Dallas
There is no hiding the importance of this stretch for the Dallas Stars. They enter tonight’s game just one point ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights for the final playoff spot and a single point behind the Nashville Predators for the first wild card.
“When we met with the team at the start of March, we said, ‘Our best hockey is ahead of us,'” Rick Bowness said. “To come out of March 9-5 with 11 of those games without Miro, we knew going into the month that we had to stay in the fight for that playoff spot, and we have done that.”
Of the final 10 games, seven of them will be played in Dallas. The Stars are 22-10-2 on home ice but have struggled a bit lately to find their usual consistency. Among their final 10 games, they will face six teams not currently sitting in a playoff spot. If they are going to make the postseason, it will need to be done in their own barn.
“You should have an advantage,” said Bowness. “We definitely enjoy playing here, and we get the match-ups we want, and we feel good with the crowd there and just being home, so we need to take advantage.”
Wedgewood in the Net
The goalie position has become a bit of a question mark lately for the Stars as Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood have bounced in and out of games with seemingly little consistency. Tonight, it will be Wedgewood that gets the assignment against a dangerous Lightning attack.
Wedgewood has played three games, going 2-1-0 with a .905 save percentage since coming over from the Arizona Coyotes at the trade deadline. Oettinger has been good but not his best lately and perhaps a bit of rest will do him well as he will be heavily relied on in the final 10 games and into a potential playoff series.
Lightning Scouting Report
You do not need to search far to find motivation for Dallas against this Tampa Bay team. The Lightning not only defeated the Stars in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final but they have also seemingly owned them ever since, going 7-2-0 against them in the last nine games.
As if the back-to-back champs were not dangerous enough without a fully healthy Steven Stamkos, they now have him at his best, recording 32 goals and 80 points through 71 games. Victor Hedman remains one of, if not the best, defenseman in the league and sits second in scoring behind Stamkos with 68 points.
Of course, if you have been around the Stars over the past few seasons, you know that the biggest enemy of the team is the big Russian netminder, Andrei Vasilevsky. Vasilevskiy is 12-1-3 in 16 games with a goals-against-average of 1.85 and a save percentage of .932 versus the Stars in his career.
- Scott Wedgewood will get his fourth start for Dallas. He is 2-1-0 overall
- Alexander Radulov & Joel Kiviranta will be out with an illness tonight
- Marian Studenic will re-enter the lineup
He Said It
“I wish we could experience the Stanley Cup Final again, that would be nice if we could have the home fans, that would be an even greater experience and hopefully a better ending too,” said forward Radek Faksa. “It motivates me to get back into the Stanley Cup Final because it was the best feeling in my career so far.”
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!