Valentine’s Day wasn’t all chocolates, red roses, and greeting cards for the Dallas Stars on Thursday night. With starting goaltender Ben Bishop out injured, Anton Khudobin and Landon Bow taking turns in net with little success, and losing top defenseman John Klingberg to injury during the game, Dallas took a 6-0 hard loss against Tampa Bay. In a road trip full of ups and downs, Thursday was a reality check for the team and fans alike. When going up against the best team in the league, the Dallas lineup just couldn’t stack up.
As for the Carolina game however, tonight is going to be a different test for Dallas in the first of two games in the season series against the Hurricanes.
The Stars made some roster moves on Friday in hopes of a shake up by reassigning Denis Gurianov to the Texas Stars and recalling Joel L’Esperance, the current top scorer in the AHL. L’Esperance, who is in his first pro season of hockey, is having quite the year. With 27 goals and 15 assists in 49 games, he is second in rookie scoring and tied for second in power play goals (11). There’s no telling if L’Esperance’s scoring will translate to the NHL, but Dallas is hopeful that his consistent play will bolster their lineup and bring a much needed spark. And the Stars could really use some consistency, as shown below in their latest 5x5 PDO over time chart.
Blake Comeau and Ben Bishop are both out with an upper-body injuries. Klingberg rested and did not skate this morning in hopes of playing tonight, so he is a game-time decision. If he isn’t ready, Montgomery said that Connor Carrick will draw in to the lineup.
On the other end, Carolina is having their own version of a roller coaster year with similar results. After a coaching shakeup, some drastic trades, and a new captain in Justin Williams, Carolina is going through a major culture change and so far, it’s working. Call it what you want, but their creative, post-game celebrations are the best in the league and a huge hit for their struggling fanbase. Their past drafting is also making a huge impact on their success. Finnish forward Sebastian Aho, who is in his third NHL season, leads the Hurricanes in all categories with 24 goals and 40 assists for a total of 64 points in 57 games. An upside for the Stars though, is that the Hurricanes will be coming off an at home back-to-back after having hosted the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.
Carolina Hurricanes Lineup
Nino Niederreiter - Sebastian Aho - Justin Williams
Micheal Ferland - Lucas Wallmark - Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov - Jordan Martinook - Brock McGinn
Warren Foegele - Greg McKegg - Saku Maenalanen
Jaccob Slavin - Dougie Hamilton
Brett Pesce - Justin Faulk
Calvin de Haan - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano - Jason Dickinson - Jason Spezza
Mattias Janmark - Radek Faksa - Brett Ritchie
Roope Hintz - Joel L’Esperance - Valeri Nichushkin
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun
Keys to the Game
- Finding the perfect spot for L’Esperance to slot into the lineup where he clicks is going to be one of the challenges Montgomery will face. Seeing as this could be L’Esperance’s NHL debut, most coaches would put him where he’ll be able to just play a simple game and not worry. If Montgomery is smart, and with time willing, he’ll put L’Esperance where he’s most likely to shine.
- After Thursday’s eye-opening performance, the Stars need to control the number of trips they take to the penalty box. Tampa took advantage — as have other teams this season — and Dallas would do well to keep away from a repeat of that tonight.
- Carolina is the youngest team in the league with an average age of 25.7 years on their roster, and with younger age comes speed. While the Stars can hold their own in the speed department, finding a way to keep the Hurricanes younger core hemmed in is going to be the biggest key to their success tonight.
Did you know?
The Dallas Stars all time record against the Carolina Hurricanes is 45-28-6, which equates to a win percentage of 60.8%.