The Pacific Division farewell tour for the Dallas Stars continues tonight as Glen Gulutzan's bunch plays their second-to-last ever game at The Tank as a member of that group.
For years the narrative has included references to matching-up with the big forwards of the Ducks, Sharks and Kings. Watching newcomer Alex Chiasson do just that with great aplomb against Anaheim Friday was a bright spot for Stars fans in an otherwise dim stretch.
As Dallas departs for the "Central" or "Midwest" Chiasson will not have to face those particular challenges habitually, but the five remaining contests with the Sharks and Kings offer ample opportunity for learning before the season comes to a close.
One curiosity of Chiasson's big night Friday was seeing him take six faceoffs and win five of them while Benn struggled along side going just two-for-ten. It could be a one-off happening, but it bears watching as these youthful experiments develop down the stretch.
On the other skilled line Cody Eakin's trio generated just five shots on goal while recorded a minus-one on the night. They'll look to build chemistry again today and give Matt Fraser some looks at Niemi's net while likely dealing with some challenging defensive assignments.
Whatever unfolds, Glen Gulutzan wants his team to play a simpler, "more direct" game, as was evidenced during their better stretches Friday night.
"I think we just want to play with a little bit different style of game," Gulutzan said of the team speed on display in Anaheim. "More direct. I think you can all see that. It's a game where we don't want to bring the puck back and try to control it."
Dallas figures to roll out the same combinations as they did in Friday night's win.
Loui Eriksson missed practice Saturday with a maintenance day. Lane MacDermid, after suffering an undisclosed upper-body injury Friday did not practice but Mike Heika reports he is likely probably for this afternoon's contest.
"I thought he was supposed to be tough but apparently he's a goal scorer," Gulutzan jested about MacDermid Friday night.
The defense and goaltending should be the same as well as Kari Lehtonen figures to get the starts until mathematical elimination.
A few short weeks ago the Sharks were sinking and in the vicinity of the Stars where playoff positioning was concerned. While Dallas has gone in one direction, San Jose has taken off emphatically in the other.
San Jose boasts a seven-game win streak entering today's contest, including a 6-0 mark on a seven game home stand that ends today. That's vaulted them to 5th in the conference with 46 points and a +5 goal differential. Dallas has scored more this season (99 goals to 94 for SJS) but the Sharks have allowed 24 fewer goals in the same number of games.
With three remaining against the Sharks, they once represented Dallas' greatest opportunity to make up ground and do some damage to a team directly in front of them. Now this Sunday matinee is a dichotomous story of franchises headed to very different months of May.