In today’s edition of Dallas Stars’ News & Rumors, we discuss Braden Holtby, who continues to perform, head coach Rick Bowness wants to be more consistent with his lineup, and John Klingberg returns from injury after missing four games.
Holtby Proving He Can Still Play
Braden Holtby is showing Stars fans that he can still play at a high level. After the two worst seasons of his career (with the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks), he had much to prove when he arrived in Dallas. He has now started five of the team’s six games, and his numbers are spectacular. He has a 2-2-0 record (he left on opening night due to dehydration) with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage, which is among the best in the league. Not only is he playing well, but he can stabilize the game when the Stars struggle in front of him; they have been outshot by an average of 6.6 shots per game and have been heavily outplayed for large stretches. Holtby has made many key saves and survived the onslaught to keep his team in the game.
“He’s been spectacular. It’s a game (Friday night) because of Braden. It’s because he did his job. We weren’t on top of our game for two periods, and he kept us in there and gave us a chance to win.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
On Friday night, Holtby backstopped the Stars to a 3-2 overtime win despite being outshot 45-23 by the Los Angeles Kings. That moved his career record to an incredible 10-1-1 record when he faces more than 40 shots in a game. While he did not play his best in Monday night’s loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, he has proven that he is capable of rising to the elite level we’ve seen from him before.
Bowness Wants Less Line Shuffling
Bowness has been forced to shuffle his lines often over the past two seasons. Since taking over as head coach in 2019, the team has dealt with much adversity, including injuries, COVID-19, snowstorms, and more. Although this season has been closer to normal, the line shuffling continues. Bowness’ goal is to find the right line combinations that give his team the best chance to win. When a line struggles, he changes it up to find a better duo or trio. However, the constant shifting can make it hard for players to develop the chemistry necessary for success. Bowness acknowledged he’s been messing with his lines too much and wants to make a change.
“I want to go into [Monday] night without options. I don’t even want to think about that. I’m changing the lines too much, and I get that, and I don’t want to do that.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
If Bowness can find the right combinations, it will be huge for the confidence of his group. Jason Robertson and Blake Comeau’s (expected to play soon) return from injury will help tremendously in finding a consistent lineup, and once they can roll out their top line of Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, and Robertson, Bowness will be able to fill in the blanks. However, if the Stars continue to struggle to find their game at five-on-five, it will make it tough for Bowness to avoid throwing his lines into the blender again.
Klingberg Returns From Injury
When John Klingberg went down awkwardly on opening night, you could sense Stars fans were holding their breath. The injury looked serious as he was helped off the Madison Square Garden ice. He returned briefly, but he left the game for good and missed the next four games. Luckily, the injury was determined to be minor, and he returned to the ice on Monday in Columbus. His return could not have come soon enough as Dallas has struggled early in the season.
“He moves the puck so well, so hopefully we can spend less time on our zone. He adds offense, which we need badly. He’s a big impact player offensively.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
Klingberg was decent in his first game back, with 20:39 of ice time, including 2:13 on the power play. While he did not pick up any points and was a minus-2, he skated well and created some offensive chances. He was also noticeable on the breakout, making crisp passes to help the Stars exit the defensive zone and transition onto the attack. This may have been the biggest asset missing from the Stars’ game without him in the lineup. The most important thing, however, is that he felt fully healthy in his return.
Dallas heads back home this week for two games on Wednesday and Friday at the American Airlines Center. The amount of rest time this season has been noticeable compared to playing the most condensed schedule in the NHL a season ago. With a 3-3-0 record, the Stars are still searching for a full 60-minute effort and a better overall team game. However, they remain confident that they will find it soon.
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!