“Beast mode” Jamie Benn was in evidence at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. One borderline dirty (certainly tardy) hit later, the Dallas Stars find Benn day-to-day going into the final game of a four game home-stand. Though 2-0-1 is a nice record at home here of late, the Washington Capitals present a higher level challenge than those prior three Eastern Conference opponents.
On game two of a back-to-back, the Capitals come in to Dallas on a 7-3-0 run, including last night’s 5-2 loss against the Blues in St. Louis. That game saw the return of Matt Niskanen and Dmitrij Jaskin to the lineup after brief absences. Both trail just Alex Ovechkin in hits for the team.
The Capitals sport one of the leagues most potent offenses and power plays. While Alex Ovechkin is the marquee name and he leads the league in goals, Washington has multiple lines and players who can put the puck in the net. In addition to Ovechkin’s 30 goals, the Capitals have four other players in double digits. Stars point leader, Tyler Seguin, would be fourth in scoring for the Capitals.
Washington plays high event hockey, allowing quality chances, but offsetting that with quality chances themselves. The Capitals win because they tend to bury their chances at a high rate.
The Stars beat the Capitals in Washington on November 3 on the strength of a good first period, where Jason Spezza and Tyler Pitlick scored within a 10 second span. Jamie Benn scored mid-way through the second and then the Stars held on (turtled, if you prefer) to escape with a Jason Dickinson overtime winner.
Washington Capitals lineup
Without a morning skate to know what tweaks they might make, the Capitals could use a lineup similar to last night’s:
Alex Ovechkin -Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Nic Dowd - Dmitrij Jaskin
John Carlson - Michal Kempny
Matt Niskanen - Dmitry Orlov
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Pheonix Copley - Braden Holtby started last night and has given up 11 goals in the last two games
Dallas Stars lineup
Jamie Benn was on the ice this morning for the optional skate, but per head coach Jim Montgomery, will not play for precautionary reasons. Erik Condra (14 goals-21 assists-35 points for sixth in the AHL) will play tonight after being recalled from the AHL Texas Stars yesterday afternoon.
With Benn’s absence, the lines again get shuffled up:
Valeri Nichushkin - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Devin Shore - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Blake Comeau - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Roope Hintz - Erik Condra
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Julius Honka - Taylor Fedun
Keys to the Game
- When the teams met in November, the Faksa line kept the Kuznetsov line in check. With last change, the Stars should be able to maintain that match-up and use it to their advantage.
- The Washington power play runs through John Carlson at the point (16 power play assists) and Alex Ovechkin in the circle (eight power play goals). Roman Polak may need to be ready to take a few shots on the shin.
- The Stars have three straight games with 40 or more shots. Prior to this streak, the Stars never had consecutive games where that was accomplished. Does this reflect the quality of competition, or is Dallas becoming more comfortable with the reads within Montgomery’s system?
Did you know (courtesy of Stars PR):
The Stars boast an all-time record of 26-11-12 versus the Washington Capitals on home ice.
The last Stars regulation loss at home when playing the Caps was October 17, 1995, when the Stars called Reunion Arena home.
Dallas has earned points in 16 straight home contests versus the Capitals (12-0-4).