With the Dallas Stars cutting their rosters down to 37 on Sunday, they’re getting one step closer to having to make some tough decisions on which players will make the 23-man roster at the NHL level prior to the season opener October 6th.
The players don’t seem to be making it any easier on the coaching staff who are facing those decisions. After two fairly good wins in the preseason, the competition for roster spots is heating up and head coach Ken Hitchcock knows it. “We're going to have a lot of competition,” he said after the Stars shutout the St. Louis Blues Saturday night.
Tonight will be the first half of a back-to-back home set of preseason games. They’ll use these two nights to try out some guys in the lineup and see if they will make the final roster. Young guys such as Remi Elie and Roope Hintz are likely to get looks, as both have had good camps for Dallas.
Dallas also has to figure out who they want to tag as the top six on the blueline unit. Jamie Oleksiak has been impressing the coaching staff throughout the preseason. Julius Honka appears NHL ready. Esa Lindell has already shown he can be successful at the NHL level. John Klingberg, Marc Methot, and Dan Hamhuis all have veteran experience on the blueline. That’s a lot of pieces to fit together — and doesn’t even include the multitude of other blueliners available to fill out a top six.
One thing we can count on is that the lineup tonight should look fairly strong. After all, Hitchcock has stated that it is important to him to have a good product on the ice since the fans pay good money to see the team play, even in the preseason when tickets have a face value cost of regular season game pricing.
On Sunday, Hitchcock stated that Ben Bishop will get the full game tonight, with Kari Lehtonen drawing in for tomorrow night’s contest versus the Minnesota Wild.
On the injury front, the Stars got some good news: Jason Dickinson, Marc Methot, and Roope Hintz, who at points in Saturday’s preseason game versus the Blues took some big hits and looked like they could have been hurt, are all good to go. Big sighs of relief from Stars fans on that. Martin Hanzal, who’s been working through an ankle injury sustained a few weeks ago, is skating well and should draw into the last preseason game this Saturday.
With a back-to-back set, the Stars will hope that they continue to get good news on the injury front as they take on the Colorado Avalanche for the second time this preseason.
The Avalanche are coming off of a 5-1 beating of the Minnesota Wild. They’ll likely roll quite a few of their big guns in this preseason game, with the likes of Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Barrie, and Nathan MacKinnon.
Colorado has looked more defensively structured at even strength in the preseason than we’ve seen from them last season. They’ve allowed only two even-strength goals through four preseason games — with both of those coming in their first game of the preseason. They’re averaging just 2.0 goals in those four games, with six of the eight goals allowed this preseason when they were shorthanded. So they haven’t exactly been worldbeaters on the penalty kill.
Maybe that will be exactly what the Stars need to get their power play humming along. They’ve converted on 3 of 18 chances this preseason, and you’d like to see that conversion higher with as much firepower as Dallas is capable of rolling out on the man advantage.
The key to success for Colorado may lie in not giving Dallas the chance to do damage on the power play at all.
Puck drop for this one is at 7:30 PM, and those in the area can see it live for themselves at the American Airlines Center. As has been the case in the preseason, there will be no stream available from the Stars side for this game. There will be a radio broadcast for the game tomorrow night, but for tonight, you’ll have to check back here on Defending Big D for updates on the lines for tonight as well as on our Twitter feed for in-game observations/gif usage.