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Another Night, Another Tough Opponent as Stars Face Avalanche

Victories against St. Louis and Edmonton have shown the team’s potential. Consistent play and a win against Colorado could signify the turning of a corner on what has been a tough start to the season.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars have won four of their last five games, and in doing so have crept closer to the playoff cutoff line. The way that they’ve done it has left a significant number of questions unanswered.

For the optimist, the team has taken down a St. Louis Blues team that was near the top of the division, and then shut down Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. The power play continues to click and the penalty kill seems to have found its legs. Depth forwards are contributing to the offense, and Roope Hintz has found his scoring touch. There are reasons to think that the Stars have turned the corner and the combination of veteran savvy and skilled youth will lead the team back to the playoffs.

For the pessimist, last week’s 7-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild is evidence of a team that is walking a tightrope. Jake Oettinger has looked great in the two games since, but can that last - and if it doesn’t, do either Anton Khudobin or Braden Holtby have the ability to keep a team that depends on superior goaltending moving forward? Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov are showing their age, and even an ageless Joe Pavelski has shown a downturn in his play. A few good games don’t make a season, and the issues with the Stars’ even strength play can only be papered over for so long.

Friday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche is the final game of a three-game home stand that was set up as a November gauntlet that Dallas had to run. So far, so good - and a win against the Avalanche and the corresponding 3-0-0 record for the week is better than most would have expected.

So, which team shows up on Friday night against Colorado?


Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Michael Raffl (18) - Jamie Benn (14) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Joel Kiviranta (25) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Luke Glendening (11)
Jacob Peterson (40) - Radek Faksa (12) - Alexander Radulov (47)

Esa Lindell (23) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Ryan Suter (20) - John Klingberg (3)
Joel Hanley (44) - Jani Hakanpaa (2)

Jake Oettinger (29)

Anton Khudobin will be scratched with Holtby backing up Oettinger.

Colorado Avalanche Lineup

Colorado has been fighting injuries all year, which somewhat explains their position in the standings. Nathan MacKinnon is out and has only played eight games this year. Injuries have also left the team struggling to find consistent play out of their bottom lines - so much like the Edmonton Oilers, the Avalanche will be looking for their top lines to decide the game.

The Avalanche are on a six game winning streak, and they’ve scored seven goals in half of those victories.

Gabriel Landeskog (92) - Mikko Rantanen (96) - Logan O’Connor (25)
Valeri Nichushkin (13) - Nazem Kadri (91) - Andre Burakovsky (95)
Tyson Jost (17) - Alex Newhook (18) - Nicolas Aube-Kubel (16)
Darren Helm (43) - Jayson Megna (12) - Kurtis MacDermid (56)

Devon Toews (7) - Cale Makar (8)
Jack Johnson (3) - Samuel Girard (49)
Erik Johnson (6) - Ryan Murray (28)

Darcy Kuemper (35)

Keys to the Game

Lock down the top lines. Colorado drives their goal scoring through their skilled top two lines. Even with their newfound scoring touch, the Stars don’t want to get into a track meet with the Avalanche.

Special Teams. Dallas has won their last two games by dominating on the power play and the penalty kill. We all know that the power play is good, but the newly aggressive penalty kill needs to demonstrate that its improvement has staying power.

Depth Scoring. Being able to roll four lines has proven to be a big plus for the Stars. Getting productive minutes out of all lines will create mismatches against a thin Colorado team and will also leave the team better rested for game two of the back to back set against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.