The Dallas Stars will try to put last year's 1-11-2 record on the second night of back-to-backs behind them Sunday night as they visit the Minnesota Wild for game two of the shortened 2013 NHL season.
Dallas earned the opening night experience they wanted for their fans last night, first selling out the building, then getting contributions from new additions in Derek Roy, Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr in a 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
For all Jagr did on the score-sheet (2 goals, 2 assists), it was his attention to detail without the puck that impressed Stars coach Glen Gulutzan after the game -
"I'll tell you the most impressive part is with 30-some seconds left, as I was waiting for the line change, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Make sure we have two centers out there,'" said Gulutzan. "He could have gone for a third with an empty net, but that wasn't his mindset; his mindset was get the points."
They got the two points and now turn their attention the Wild, who played at home last night, defeating the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Dallas' home dominance over Minnesota in recent years has been well documented (16 straight wins) but going back eight years the Stars have split at Xcel Energy Center (8-6-2).
In the same eight-season-span the Stars have taken three of four from Minnesota each and every time. The teams meet just three times in this abbreviated year. This will be Dallas' only trip to Minnesota this year. This is the third year in a row the Stars have opened their season with a back-to-back set.
Reminder: Tonight's game is on Fox Sports Southwest PLUS
Line combinations were these on Saturday, and stayed nearly entirely so, despite Vern Fiddler and Derek Roy both apparently needing repairs in the third period...
Defensive pairings were these...
Brenden Dillon had a pretty strong outing, while Jordie Benn had some nervous moments, including a turnover that cost the Stars the Coyotes third goal. Aaron Rome, newly acquired free agent from Vancouver, could make his Stars' debut tonight if a groin injury suffered in camp allows. Gulutzan mentioned Saturday morning that Rome was 80-85% ready.
Gulutzan told media Saturday that his plan in goal was not yet decided. Kari Lehtonen could go again but with seven games in eleven days it would seem prudent for Christopher Nilstorp, already in mid-season form thanks to AHL play, get his NHL debut.
Small sample sizes abound after just one post-lockout performance, but we'll keep an eye on faceoffs. Derek Roy had an impressive debut winning 16 of 23, as did Vern Fiddler last night (11 of 15). The guy that didn't is Jamie Benn understudy Tom Wandell, who lost 10 of 14 on the evening.
14 of 18 Stars' recorded time on the penalty kill Saturday night against Phoenix. They need it be less (as in less penalties to kill) if they were to escape Minnesota with at least a point.
The Wild began the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter era last night at home with a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs struck first just two minutes into the first period and out-shot the Wild 12-5 in the frame, but Minnesota responded with three unanswered goals and out-shot the Avs 30-15 the rest of the way. Like the Coyotes the Wild tallied two power play goals on opening night - Both scored by Dany Heatley and both assisted by Zach Parise.
Line combinations from Saturday's action looked something like this...
Youngster Mikael Grandlund scored his first NHL goal in the second and the Wild got production from their top three lines against Varlamov, who, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, robbed the Wild at least a "half dozen times."
Minnesota will bring more offensive pressure than the Coyotes did last night, and they offer many more singular threats (Heatley, Koivu, Parise, Star-killer Setoguchi) than Dave Tippett could ever hope to. A defense that was just able to do enough on opening night will be that much more tasked Sunday at Xcel Engery Center.
Nik Backstrom stopped 25 of 27 for Minnesota in their first win, and like the Stars they play again on Tuesday, so Harding could conceivably start in net tonight.