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Stars Begin Slower Stretch of Schedule In Winnipeg Tonight

With only four games in the next 11 days, the Stars will get plenty of rest - and the chance to win some 4-point games.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Winnipeg Jets Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Rest is not often a luxury NHL teams get to have between games once the regular season gets underway. Coaches often bemoan this fact, noting that they don’t get a lot of time to practice special teams or 5-on-5 play between games.

The Dallas Stars are getting a little bit of time these days, though. A quirk of their early schedule sees them play just four games in the next 11 days. And it couldn’t be better timed for the Stars.

After an up-and-down start to the season, the Stars have special teams humming along quite nicely. But the 5-on-5 play has been less than impressive. Hopefully, the practice time the Stars will get will see some improvements in that area over the course of the next few games as they work to right that part of the proverbial ship.

Dallas will get a big test tonight as they take on the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg at 7 PM CDT (hooray, the Pacific time zone starts are done for this road trip!) Winnipeg has always played a heavy game that Dallas has struggled to matchup against in the past.

The Stars will have some fresh blood in their lineup tonight as Jason Dickinson will draw in. He was recalled by the Stars yesterday with Martin Hanzal out with injury. We’ll have to wait to see what the lines are at morning practice. If I had to assemble them based on paper alone, I’d expect lines to look something like this:

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Gemel Smith - Jason Dickinson - Remi Elie

Stephen Johns has been cleared of his concussion symptoms and will likely draw back into the defensive pairings. Without practice yesterday, it’s tougher to determine who will be sitting as a result, but it’ll definitely be one of Greg Pateryn or Jamie Oleksiak. Based on this road trip’s performance so far, I’d guess Oleksiak draws out.

Ben Bishop will backstop the Stars as they try to slow down the Jets, who are riding a five game point streak (3-0-2). They’re deadly on the penalty kill, as they’ve buried three shorthanded goals so far this season. In terms of special teams, Dallas will hold the advantage in both power play and penalty kill compared to the Jets, who rank somewhere in the middle of the pack on the PK and are one of the worst teams in converting their power play chances.

This game represents one of the first real chances for the Stars to start to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the teams in the Western Conference bunched up in the 10-14 point area. A Central division game represents a four point swing in standings - two points for the winning team and two points the losing team can’t ever make up on their opposition.

Some may think that it’s too early to really be looking at standings and points. But there’s a fun fact that has proven out a lot of times in the NHL. Teams in playoff standings at (American) Thanksgiving are generally likely to make the playoffs. Not many have ever been on the outside looking in at that point in the season and then made it into the playoffs (something like only 8 times in the last 10+ seasons).

Now that the calendar has flipped to November, and Thanksgiving is three weeks away, it’s time to start keeping an eye on it as the games tick by. After all, two points in November mean the same in the standings as two points in April.