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Stars Look To Get Back On Track In Calgary

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The Stars had a bumpy start to their latest road trip. Can they get back to their recent winning ways against a close Western Conference rival?

NHL: Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars’ field trip through Western Canada didn’t begin quite the way they wanted. The squad snapped a four-game winning streak with a 3-2 OT loss to the Winnipeg Jets, and the fallout included renewed public criticism of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin from management.

The Stars’ Super Best Friends are still looking for a consistent groove, and this time they took incoming fire from their head coach. Jim Montgomery later apologized for calling them out in the media, but Benn and Seguin both acknowledged his point. The Stars sit at 29th in scoring (goal for per game), and Roope Hintz won’t be able to pull them out by the scruff of the neck for at least another week. Watch the big guns closely to see if their search for better results will finally pay off.

It’s a big night for Corey Perry, who will play his 1,000th NHL game in the Scotiabank Saddledome. He has suited up for many of those games against these former Pacific Division rivals. It seems like the sort of situation that provides extra motivation for him.

Mattias Janmark, whose recent play has created some much-needed secondary scoring, did not practice yesterday due to a lower-body injury. Nick Caamano has been recalled from the Texas Stars, so it’s possible Janmark won’t be in the lineup tonight.

With John Klingberg still sidelined, the Stars’ defense will continue to rely heavily on Miro Heiskanen as a play driver. Can the imminent return of Roman Polak provide an extra spark? Number 45 practiced on the third pair yesterday, and players and coaches alike have talked up his value as a spirit guide. His presence might restore a certain level of comfort and stability to the lineup.


Hot Fire

The Calgary Flames are coming off a hard-fought OT loss of their own – this one to the Stars’ own perennial Central Division foes, the St. Louis Blues. With 23 points, they sit in fourth place in a close Pacific Division; the Vancouver Canucks own a tie-breaker on games played. They, too, are motivated to get the cart back on track as quickly as possible – especially against a team they might be battling for a wild-card spot down the stretch next spring.

The Flames’ hottest line right now belongs to Mikael Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane. That unit has produced nearly 64 percent of team scoring chances, even as they start more than 57 percent of their shifts in the neutral or defensive zones.

Meanwhile, Johnny Gaudreau is another superstar playing somewhat below the elevated expectations associated with him. A 99-point scorer last season, currently he’s playing on pace for fewer than 70. But he remains a significant danger, even at “only” a .85 point-per-game pace.

Noah Hanifin and Travis Hamonic will drive the blueline for the Flames. Oliver Kylington, who has struggled to find his game in the NHL this year, could be back in the lineup soon after netting a hat trick with the Stockton Heat on Saturday night. Is he on the brink of his own Gurianov-style breakout?

Milan Lucic doesn’t do much for scoring, but he does take quite a few penalties. He returned to the lineup last week after serving a two-game suspension for sucker-punching the St. Louis Blues’ Kole Sherwood.

Netminder David Rittich has started more games this season to date than any other NHL goaltender. He’s also riding a streak, having started November with a 3-1 W/L record and a .934 save percentage.

In case you missed it, DBD’s own Taylor Baird gave the Stars preview for SB Nation sister site Matchsticks & Gasoline. You can listen to the new episode here.

Dallas Stars Lineup

The Stars’ projected lines look like this:

FORWARDS

Alexander Radulov - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry
Jamie Benn - Justin Dowling - Tyler Seguin
Nick Caamano - Joe Pavelski - Denis Gurianov
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

DEFENSE

Esa Lindell - Andrej Sekera
Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen
Taylor Fedun - Roman Polak

GOALTENDER

Ben Bishop

Calgary Flames Lineup

Here’s what the Flames looked like at a Monday skate:

FORWARDS

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Andrew Mangiapane - Mikael Backlund - Matthew Tkachuk
Sam Bennett - Derek Ryan - Michael Frolik
Milan Lucic - Mark Jankowski - Tobias Rieder

DEFENSE

Mark Giordano - Travis Hamonic
Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson
T.J. Brodie - Michael Stone

GOALTENDER

David Rittich