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Another Meltdown or Redemption? Stars Return to Denver

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Third period woes loom large as the Stars finish off a brutal month of road games.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche
Colorado’s top line has been hard to take down this year
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve always been a glass half-full guy, so I’m choosing to believe that when the Dallas Stars played the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center two days after Thanksgiving, they played one of their best third periods of the year. Maybe that’s three-quarters full, because when Jamie Benn scored at 15:03 for the Stars to take the lead, that’s how I’d like to remember the game.

Great comeback against a #MDK rival, on the second game of a back-to-back. That last few minutes, well...

So, three weeks to the night of the crime later, the Stars come limping through Denver on their way back to the Lone Star State. The swing through the southern side of the Pacific Division saw the Stars play a solid 60 minutes of hockey, which unfortunately was spread over third games.

Third periods (maybe you noticed) have been less than ideal.


But enough history. The Stars lace up the skates again tonight. There’s a game to be played, and they even have a shiny new forward to ice.

The task won’t be easy. The Avalanche sport a top line that ESPN recently named the best trio in the NHL. On November 24, Jared Bednar had them on ice for more than 20 minutes each, and with last change, they took advantage of all lines not centered by Tyler Seguin.

Blue = Bad

On the bright side, the Stars did find some success down the lineup.

The powerplay somehow took the night off in San Jose, but facing a Colorado team that is fifth in powerplay goals allowed could bring an opportunity for continued success with the man advantage. Plus, the Avalanche are on the second day of a back-to-back that started with an overtime loss on the road to the St. Louis Blues on Friday night.

Colorado Avalanche Lineup

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - J.T. Compher - Sven Andrighetto
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Matt Calvert
A.J. Greer - Colin Wilson - Gabriel Bourque

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Nikita Zadorov

Semyon Varlamov

Dallas Stars Lineup (updated after morning skate)

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Devin Shore - Martin Hanzal - Denis Gurianov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin
Jason Dickinson - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Esa Lindell - Julius Honka
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Gavin Bayreuther - Taylor Fedun

Ben Bishop

Keys to the Game

It should come as no surprise that how the Stars handle Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen will go a long way to determining the outcome. Containing them probably means offensive zone time for the Stars, which has been rare this year.

Counterintuitively, from puck drop, Dallas needs to push the pace. Jumping the first period erases bad memories of games past, and the bottom of the Stars’ lineup matches up well with a team that played last night.

As for the Russians? Here are some potential outcomes:

  • Nichushkin solidifies his spot on the Faksa line.
  • Gurianov does Denis things, making it difficult to send him back to Cedar Park.
  • Radulov sets up Seguin at the circle for a one-timer than hits the pipe and goes in. #StarsWin

Did you know? With last nights loss, Colorado moved to 1-6 in overtime for the year. Winnipeg is 5-2. Swap those records and the Avalanche lead the Western Conference.