The Stars are coming off an impressive 3-2 comeback overtime victory against the Winnipeg Jets last night [Feb. 23]. The victory is the second straight against the Jets and the 10th win in the last 14 games overall. Now, they travel to Nashville to face a Predators team just ahead of them in the standings in another crucial Central Division matchup.
Stars Travel Issues Lead To Taller Task
In a bizarre twist, the Stars were unable to fly out of Dallas following last night’s game. Due to icy weather around Texas, all flights were grounded, forcing the team to stay overnight. This means they will need to fly to Tennessee this afternoon, arrive a few hours before game time, and play one of the better home teams in the NHL on the second night of a back-to-back.
Facing the Predators on the road after playing an intense overtime game the previous night is already asking a lot. Now with the change in travel, it will be a tall task for Dallas to come in and steal two points at Bridgestone Arena.
Oettinger Back In Net?
Jake Oettinger has been in the net for eight of the last nine games for Dallas. With Braden Holtby performing inconsistently and Oettinger coming off an incredible week where he was named the NHL’s Third Star, the decision has been a relatively easy one for head coach Rick Bowness.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said Bowness prior to a game last week. “And I’m not the smartest guy in the world, so that helps.”
However, with the game last night and travel today, that decision becomes more blurry. While goalies are usually expected to split the duties of a back-to-back (unless you are Winnipeg, Nashville, or Pittsburgh), the Stars desperately need to win this game tonight. Bowness, who usually gives the media very little about his future lineup, spoke about this decision after morning skate yesterday.
“Let’s say tonight he has 45 shots or he has 25, that comes into play,” Bowness said. “A lot of it has to do with the game tonight. If we can keep the chances and shots down against, then that’s an open discussion. If it is a tough night and we are in our zone for way too much time and he is making way too many saves, then that’s a whole nother discussion we have to have.”
Second Line Scoring Huge For Dallas
It is no secret that the Stars have been run mostly by their top line of Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, and Jason Robertson. Each player sits in the top three in most offensive categories and only Hintz is below the point-per-game pace. However, for the Stars to have consistent success, they need other guys to step up.
The line that has done that lately has been Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Denis Gurianov. That trio accounted for all three goals in last night’s win over Winnipeg and has done some damage since Christmas.
“It’s okay,” Benn laughed when asked about his chemistry with Seguin on the second line. “We want to keep getting better. We are just trying to do our part. We can be a really good second line on this team. We need to bring that offensive side of our game and try to help out Roope [Hintz] line.”
Although there are other factors that come into the team’s success, the Stars may only go as far as their secondary scoring will take them. When they are winning, they are receiving great goaltending and production from their second line or even players in the bottom-six. Not only that, Benn (33) and Seguin (30) should still be in their prime and producing at a much higher pace. Seguin has been slowly improving while rehabbing from two major surgeries last year.
“In training camp, I got humbled in many ways,” Seguin said of the challenge of returning. “It was so positive because I didn’t have the pain anymore, but there was still so much to work on as far as strength and explosiveness. The progress I’ve made now is great, and I’m hoping to see the full benefits as the year goes on.”
Gurianov (24) has been an up and down player in his young career. He started off with a bang, scoring 21 goals in his first NHL season and added nine playoff goals during the run to the Stanley Cup Final. However, he has been inconsistent, scoring only 12 goals last season (nearly all of them coming after April) and currently sitting at just seven in 2021-22. If he can find a way to stay consistent and avoid the long scoreless droughts, he is a clear top-six winger.
There is a huge two points up for grabs tonight in Music City. If Dallas wins, they will jump into a wild card spot and climb within two points of Nashville with one fewer game played. If Nashville wins, Dallas stays on the outside of the bubble and drops six points behind the Predators for the first wild card spot.
- There are no new updates or injuries and the Stars did not skate this morning
He Said It
“If you look at everyone outside the three guys that lead the way, then everyone has got a little bit more, some guys maybe a lot more,” Seguin said. “You look at the potential there, and there’s excitement, but then you also realize you’ve got to look in your own mirror. It’s like back in training camp, where we’ve got the pieces and to the eye on the paper it looks great.”
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!