The first matchup of the Ken Hitchcock-coached Edmonton Oilers against his old team the Dallas Stars was peak Hitch. One goal combined and stifling defense allowed the two teams to end regulation tied, with the Oilers getting the first and only goal needed to win in overtime.
Dallas has been struggling to score of late, going 2,4,0,2,6,1,1,6,1,1 in their last 10 games. Outside of two offensive outbursts against Eastern Conference teams (New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators), that is less than ideal.
That’s maybe what happens when only three of those 10 games have been at home for the Stars. Teams usually have a tougher time scoring on the road without the ability to get favorable matchups between lines.
Thankfully, the Stars tend to play some high-event hockey in front of their fans. They like to put on a show and have one of the highest points percentages on home ice in the league, collecting just a smidge over 70% of available points at the American Airlines Center.
Maybe that environment will help them flip the script on Hitch’s team tonight.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Jason Spezza
Devin Shore - Roope Hintz - Alexander Radulov
Valeri Nichushkin - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - Miro Heiskanen
Gavin Bayreuther - Roman Polak
Joel Hanley - Taylor Fedun
Anton Khudobin is in net. It’s a smart move for two reasons. First, you don’t want to place too much of a workload on Ben Bishop after just returning from a lower-body injury. Second, Khudobin shutout the Oilers last week in regulation before falling in overtime. He has been playing pretty well of late, so he gives the coaching staff an option to roll with while they ease Bishop back into starts.
Unfortunately, that means that Bishop won’t play on his own bobblehead night tonight.
Blake Comeau’s wife went into labor earlier today so he’s missing the game for all the right kind of reasons tonight. That opened the door for Ritchie to return to the lineup. Given Nichushkin’s puck possession style and the coach’s trust in him as part of a defensively-minded line, he was always going to be returned to the lineup today after a healthy scratch last game. His line will be tasked with keeping Connor McDavid in check.
Edmonton Oilers Lineup
Leon Draisaitl -- Connor McDavid -- Alex Chiasson
Drake Caggiula -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- Jesse Puljujarvi
Milan Lucic -- Kyle Brodziak -- Zack Kassian
Jujhar Khaira -- Ryan Spooner -- Ty Rattie
Oscar Klefbom -- Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse -- Kris Russell
Kevin Gravel -- Matt Benning
Mikko Koskinen will be in net for a rematch with Khudobin. He absolutely robbed the Stars of a few goals in that game last week. Luckily, the Stars seem to score more at home than they do on the road, and the home ice advantage may give them the boost they need to keep the Oilers from winning their fourth game in a row.