Following the buildup and cathartic release of the Winter Classic, dropping into game mode for a matchup against the league worst Detroit Red Wings might be the toughest challenge that the Dallas Stars face this year. Not on the ice per-se, but switching over from the national spotlight on New Years Day to playing a team that is actively playing for the number one draft pick is bound to cause a massive letdown.
The question is how the Stars react. Maybe it’s a good thing that Anthony Mantha took Dallas to task during the game in the midst of the team’s disastrous opening ten games. Mantha is out on injured reserve, but the memory of that loss shouldn’t sit well in the room. If nothing else, its a forceful reminder that on any given night, if the team doesn’t come to play, they can find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
On Thursday, the Stars called up Joel Kiviranta from Texas in anticipation of a suspension to Corey Perry. Kiviranta should easily slide in as the right winger on the fourth line, and could add some needed scoring punch to a line centered by Jason Dickinson regardless of whether Mattias Janmark or Denis Gurianov slots in on the left wing. With Dickinson and Janmark as partners, it would give Kiviranta an opportunity to showcase his offensive talents.
Also at practice on Thursday came news that John Klingberg is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He’s not expected to play in tonight’s game.
After being a playoff staple for years, Detroit is full on in rebuild/tank mode. Their top line, however, does have talent.
Tyler Bertuzzi is leading the team in goals with 15, and Robby Fabbri has been a pleasant surprise since coming over from the St. Louis Blues in early November. Throw in a dangerous Dylan Larkin at center, and the line can score.
The remaining three lines are filled with grinders, and as such they can be problematic if taken lightly. Stars fans may recognize ex-Star Gemel Smith’s brother Givani Smith on the third line, and like many of the Red Wings, they can bring a physical presence to the game.
Defensively, Detroit ices several old Stars, including Patrik Nemeth on the first pair and Trevor Daley the second (yes, the second). Nemeth’s partner, Filip Hronek as been playing well as a 22 year old getting first pair minutes earlier in his career than is preferable.
In net, Jonathan Bernier is coming in off of a 2-0 shutout of the San Jose Sharks. His number aren’t spectacular, with a save percentage just above .900 and a goals against average a bit over 3, but given the defense in front of him, he hasn’t been bad. Jimmy Howard has fallen to backup status.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Denis Gurianov (34) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Joel Kiviranta (25)
Esa Lindell (23) - Taylor Fedun (42)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Roman Polak (45)
Anton Khudobin (35)
Detroit Red Wings Lineup
Tyler Bertuzzi (59) - Dylan Larkin (71) - Robby Fabbri (14)
Darren Helm (43) - Frans Nielsen (81) - Luke Glendening (41)
Givani Smith (48) - Valtteri Filppula (51) - Filip Zadina (11)
Justin Abdelkader (8) - Christoffer Ehn (70) - Adam Erne (73)
Patrik Nemeth (22) - Filip Hronek (17)
Trevor Daley (83) - Madison Bowey (74)
Brian Lashoff (32) - Alex Biega (3)
Jonathan Bernier (45)
Keys to the Game
Shake off the Hangover. A letdown is understandable and predictable, but taking on a team that is well out of a playoff spot, coming out in the first period and taking away a teams desire and fight is vital. The Stars have not done this well lately, but this is a game where they need to push through the opening minutes to take away the Red Wing’s hope.
Power Play. Little noted, but importantly, on Alexander Radulov’s game winning goal in the Winter Classic, Rick Bowness left John Klingberg on point with the first unit. The Stars may not have come up with a solution for gaining the zone, but Klingberg is the key to the power play once it’s established, and having him out with the first unit makes Dallas a better team. With Klingberg out for tonight’s game, the Stars power play will need to adjust to missing its best playmaker, but ultimately, Klingberg deserves top power play time.
Don’t disrespect Detroit’s bottom lines. The top line is the known known, and there is little doubt that the Stars will clamp down on them. In trap games, its the unknowns that come back to bite you.
On a personal note, I’m writing this well before Corey Perry’s meeting with player safety. I fully expect that there is a suspension in his future, deservedly so. I also know that the Stars play the Anaheim Ducks on January 9, and there is a planned tribute to one of their all time great players on that night.
I’ll be at Honda Center for that game, sporting a Victory Green #14, not a #10 (my standard road Vern Fiddler is out for repairs). The jury is still out on Perry as a Star, and what happened on New Years isn’t going to help in that regard, but Corey Perry the man and Corey Perry the player deserve a loud welcome in Anaheim. It will be a shame if he doesn’t get that either next Thursday or in April when the Stars return on fan appreciation night.