Stars News & Rumors: Oettinger, Robertson, & Line Up Changes

Suffering a 5-1 loss on the road to the Winnipeg Jets and former head coach Rick Bowness Tuesday night, the Dallas Stars witnessed their three-game win streak come to a close. Although Dallas’s road trip ended on a low note, giving up first place in the Central Divison to the Jets, the Stars still returned home with plenty of optimism.

Decisively defeating the Arizona Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers, Dallas obtained four of the six possible points during their three-game trip away from the American Airlines Center. Tied with Winnipeg in points with 17, the Stars sit in second place in the division, four points ahead of the third-place Colorado Avalanche. Although the team gave up an uncharacteristic five goals Tuesday, they still boast the league’s third-best goal differential at plus-15 and average 3.61 goals per contest. Conversely, Dallas allows just 2.46 goals per game, even with Jake Oettinger sidelined with a lower-body injury since Oct. 29.

Minus one hiccup in Winnipeg, Dallas remains one of the top teams in the NHL as we head into the middle of November. As we head toward the end of the week, it looks like the Stars might receive some good news, strengthening the likelihood of remaining one of the NHL’s teams to beat.

Jake Oettinger’s Return to Play

In a late October match-up against the New York Rangers, Oettinger removed himself from the second period of the contest, eventually missing the next four games due to a lower-body injury. Although Dallas’s star goaltender did not travel with the team for the road trip, both general manager Jim Nill and head coach Pete Deboer continued to share encouraging comments regarding the injury, remarking on his ability to rehab and remain on the ice.

Now that the Stars are back in Dallas, Oettinger is reportedly preparing to join his team at practice on Thursday. If all goes well, there is a chance that he could be an option for Friday’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

Jake Oettinger Dallas Stars
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

During Oettinger’s four-game absence, the Stars were mainly able to continue winning thanks to admirable netminding from backup Scott Wedgewood and high-octane goal-scoring. Before Tuesday’s loss, Wedgewood allowed just two goals in all three of the team’s wins. The Stars also provided plenty of support scoring 18 goals throughout those three contests.

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Although Wedgewood appears to be a reliable option in goal at a backup capacity, the Stars are in elite hands when Oettinger settles in between the pipes. Before his injury, Oettinger averaged just 1.40 goals against with an astounding .952 save percentage through seven games. Yes, the sample size is small. Still, Dallas’s star goalie was so locked in to start the year that no opponent scored more than two goals against him.

Without Oettinger, the Stars may still have the talent to make the postseason. However, they look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender when he is healthy. Likely returning in the next two games, the Stars and their fan base are thrilled to get their most important player back on the ice.

Jason Robertson Keeps Scoring Goals

It seems like not that long ago that Jason Robertson‘s future in Dallas appeared in question. Continuing contract negotiations well into the preseason, the 23-year-old’s four-year, $31 million extension already looks like a bargain for the Stars.

Through 13 games, Robertson is already closing in on the 20-point mark, registering nine goals and ten assists. In the game against the Jets on Tuesday, he scored a goal in his sixth-consecutive match, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to record a six-game goal streak at 23 or younger. Scoring two goals against the Coyotes, he has seven total goals during his current streak.

Jason Robertson Dallas Stars
Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Though not necessarily receiving the same amount of attention other NHL stars receive, Robertson is cementing himself as one league’s top players. At this point, surpassing his 41-goal effort from last season seems a real possibility.

Shaking up the Lines

Early this season, one of the hallmarks of the Stars under Deboer was his ability to keep the forward lines consistent, making minor changes when needed. Dallas started its game in Winnipeg with the same lineup as the past five games. Of course, the approach makes sense when considering the organization’s early-season success. Unfortunately, that consistency halted after two periods of unproductive hockey.

Dallas’s top line of Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski remained untouched for a good reason. After that, Deboer demonstrated his displeasure with the team’s right-wing play, shifting Ty Dellandrea up to the second line, moving Radek Faksa to the third line, and demoting Denis Gurianov to the fourth line. Deboer also shook up the defensive pairings, completely changing each from what they looked like to start the game.

A ways away from Friday night, it is unclear whether Deboer plans on altering the lines even more. Likely, his changes Tuesday served more as a reaction to his displeasure surrounding the Stars’ overall play. Still, expect Deboer to continue to experiment with right wing. Dellandrea appears more equipped for the third line at this point in his development, but the need for a productive top-six right-winger remains if Gurianov cannot consistently contribute.

Upcoming Games

Starting Friday against the Sharks at home, the Stars head into a busy week of games, mainly on the road. After the San Jose game, they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers Sunday afternoon. Though not a skilled team on paper, the Flyers continue to find ways to remain in games, sneaking away with wins more often than anyone expected. Behind elite goaltending from Carter Hart, they should not take the Flyers lightly.

Carter Hart Philadelphia Flyers
Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After Sunday’s afternoon game, the Stars take their tour of Florida, first playing the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday and then the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Finally, they will head back to Dallas for an extending home stint, starting with the New York Islanders a week from Saturday.

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