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Ahead of Long Road Trip, Stars Face The Coyotes Tonight

Goals are scarce for both teams. Expect a barn-burner.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Dallas Stars
Defense is more than just protecting the front of the net.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars play their last home game tonight against the Arizona Coyotes before going on the road for the next two weeks. Dallas is dead last in the NHL in combined goals per game of 5.06, while Arizona comes in at 5.47 for 28th overall.

Given the omen for a defensive struggle, the multitude of Super Bowl hangovers, and a Monday night, the NHL was probably wise to schedule this one right before a six-game road trip.

There are, however, some intriguing aspects to the game.

First and foremost, the Stars’ current four-game winning streak has not seemed in any way fluke-ish. Dallas has been getting quality offensive zone time and they’ve been able to generate high-quality scoring chances off the forecheck. Defensively, the team has been characteristically stingey.

The jury is still out on whether this brand of hockey will put rear ends in seats, but for now the winning portion of winning ugly is trumping losing with flair.

Arizona comes in playing game five of a six-game road trip that ends Tuesday night in Nashville. They’re currently 2-1-1 on the trip, and are a solid 6-2-2 in their last 10.

Offensively, the Coyotes have gone all in with a youth and speed movement. Fourth-line center Mario Kempe is the only starter over 30 years of age. Clayton Keller was a standout last year as a rookie, and finished third in the Calder Trophy voting. He is having a minor sophomore slump, but still leads the team in both goals (11) and assists (24). Derek Stepan anchors a balanced second line.

Defensively, Arizona relies on a mix of veterans and youth. The Coyotes locked up 20-year-old Jakob Chychrun until 2025 as their defender of the future, but he is currently day-to-day with a lower body injury. Oliver Ekman-Larsson anchors a top pair with Niklas Hjalmarsson, but the Coyotes tend to let all three defensive pairs play significant minutes. Expect to see former Star Alex Goligoski on the second pair and Kevin Connauton on the third pair — Jason Demers is out for the year with a knee injury.

In net, Arizona lost their season-opening starter, Antti Raanta, again to a knee injury. Darcy Kuemper has been solid in net as a replacement (.914 save percentage, 2.64 goals against).

Arizona Coyotes Lineup

Alex Galchenyuk - Nick Cousins - Clayton Keller
Richard Panik - Derek Stepan - Vinnie Hinostroza
Conor Garland - Jordan Weal - Christian Fischer
Lawson Crouse - Mario Kempe - Josh Archibald

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Alex Goligoski - Jordan Oesterle
Kevin Connauton - Ilya Lyubushkin

Darcy Kuemper

Dallas Stars Lineup

Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Andrew Cogliano - Jason Dickinson - Jason Spezza
Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun

Ben Bishop

Keys to the Game

  • Back-to-back wins over divisional opponents and the last home game before an extended road trip against a team outside of the playoffs. This is the quintessential trap game.
  • Be patient and stick with the system and process. Arizona will counter with speed, but if the Stars keep playing from the crease out, the Coyotes will have a difficult time scoring.
  • Speed kills. The Stars’ fourth line has been dangerous, but they haven’t hit the score sheet. The Coyotes could be susceptible to the counterattack, and Gurianov and Hintz are due to be rewarded.

Did you know?

The last time that the Stars and Coyotes both made the playoffs in the same year was in 2000. Miro Heiskanen was one year old, Ken Hitchcock was the head coach, and the Stars lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Final.