The puck drops at the American Airlines Center tonight at 7:30 PM CDT for the first regular season game of the Dallas Stars season.
Dallas will have a lot of eyes on them. They made a lot of moves this summer to send the message to the league that they are contenders. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are expected to bounce back this season and lead the Stars to a deep run in the playoffs.
Anything else might be considered a failure. After all, general manager Jim Nill put pieces around his core this offseason to win games and gave them a Hall of Fame-worthy coach to give them structure. Now it’s on them to lead by example.
The Vegas Golden Knights, the Stars first opponent this year, seems to be on the end of the spectrum.
Not many anticipate expansion teams to have great success in their first few seasons. But that doesn’t mean Dallas should count them as some kind of “easy” win. They still have talent on the team, and often those that are considered underdogs will take out the top dog to show that they’re competition to be taken seriously.
They’ve got a roster full of competitive players, after all.
But let’s talk about that roster for a minute. The Vegas Golden Knights are even worse than the Stars in terms of how many blueliners they’re carrying on their active roster. As of yesterday, their roster had 11 forwards only in order for them to carry 9 defensemen on their 23-man roster.
Then, to add to their headscratching roster management choices, they placed 25-year-old backup goaltender Calvin Pickard on waivers to claim Malcolm Subban. Pickard was, in my opinion, a decent backup to Semyon Varlamov in Colorado last season, and that’s saying something given the dumpster fire that team was. Subban is pretty much regarded as a bit of a project at this point, so the move feels a little weird to me.
Expansion teams look a little weird to begin with, I guess. After all, they’re trying to shape a roster from bits of other team’s rosters while building an entire prospect system.
To date, the Golden Knights have played with pace, utilizing the strength of youth in their roster makeup to their advantage. The Stars should be able to match a pacey style. The trick will be whether Dallas can dictate the pace and set the tone tonight, as head coach Ken Hitchcock wants them to, or if they’ll get caught in a run-and-gun shootout style game. If it’s the former, they’ll have a good chance of winning tonight. If it’s the latter, then this could end up in a 6-5 affair — and there’s no guarantee they’ll be the ones to come out on top.
Dallas Stars Lineup
The Stars should roll a line-up that looks something like this tonight:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore - Martin Hanzal - Tyler Pitlick
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Adam Cracknell/Gemel Smith
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Marc Methot - Jamie Oleksiak
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns
Ben Bishop should get the start tonight, and I’d expect to see Kari Lehtonen in goal tomorrow night with the team playing a back-to-back set. I’d expect the scratches to be Gemel Smith as the extra forward and defensemen Greg Pateryn and Julius Honka, at least in game one. It’s likely they could rotate in for the game in St. Louis, depending on how this game goes tonight.
Vegas Golden Knights Lineup
James Neal, arguably the most veteran forward that Vegas has on their roster, has been injured in the preseason. Head coach Gerard Gallant told the media there is a chance that Neal could play in Dallas tonight, but that’s likely more of a game-time decision.
So, we’re expecting some semblance of a lineup like this, assuming Neal does play tonight. As far as the defensive pairings, that’s a total shot in the dark - they’ve got 9 blueliners that even their head coach isn’t sure how he’s going to put them together for tonight’s contest. We’ll know more after morning skate (hopefully).
Jonathan Marchessault - Vadim Shipachyov - Reilly Smith
James Neal (Q) - Cody Eakin - David Perron
William Karlsson - Erik Haula - Brendan Leipsic
Tomas Nosek - Pierre-Edward Bellemare - William Carrier
Brayden McNabb - Deryk Engelland
Nate Schmidt - Colin Miller
Jason Garrison - Luca Sbisa
Marc-Andre Fleury will be their starter, with Malcolm Subban as his backup. Scratches should include Clayton Stoner (injured), Griffin Reinhart, Jon Merrill, and Brad Hunt.