When the puck drops for the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night, it will be without the safety net of Jake Oettinger in goal. Or even available. Oettinger is out for at least a week, which puts Scott Wedgewood directly in the spotlight.
The Stars had to jump through some contract hoops even to set up their backup. The cap hit for Anton Khudobin is still too high for him to be moved to the NHL roster, leaving AHL signee Matt Murray as the obvious choice to fill the roster spot. A quick one year entry level contract later (plus a call up), and the Stars have a second netminder - one who has 10 professional games to his credit, but with a stellar 7-3 record in those games.
With no back to back games until after Thanksgiving, Dallas does have the option of riding Wedgewood for the duration. The Stars are going to find out quickly whether the “Wedgewall” that showed up down the stretch is the real thing, or a tantalizing chimera.
In the meantime, with Tuesday’s puck drop, the team officially brings Wyatt Johnston into the NHL fold. Not that this is much of a surprise - Johnston has looked ready for NHL competition since game one.
Defensively, Miro Heiskanen is back skating with the team. He is still at least a game away from drawing in. (And now he’s back to game time decision).
Pete DeBoer said Miro Heiskanen is out tonight against the Kings.— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) November 1, 2022
Update: After skating this morning, Miro Heiskanen has been upgraded to questionable for tonight, and will take warmup, Pete DeBoer said.— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) November 1, 2022
One final change may be in the works. Ty Dellandrea is back working with Tyler Seguin and Mason Marchment, so the rookie may be getting some time with the line that played so well together to start the season. The projected lineup still has Dellandrea lining up with Jamie Benn and Wyatt Johnston, but there appears to be at least some understanding on the part of the coaching staff that the second and third lines may need some adjustments.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Mason Marchment (27) – Tyler Seguin (91) – Denis Gurianov (34)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Ty Dellandrea (10)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Radek Faksa (12) – Luke Glendening (11)
Miro Heiskanen (4) – Jani Hakanpaa (2)
Ryan Suter (20) – Nils Lundkvist (5)
Esa Lindell (23) – Colin Miller (6)
Scott Wedgewood (41)
Los Angeles Kings Lineup
Gabriel Vilardi (13) - Anze Kopitar (11) - Adrian Kempe (9)
Trevor Moore (12) - Phillip Danault (24) - Viktor Arvidsson (33)
Kevin Fiala (22) - Rasmus Kupari (89) - Carl Grundstrom (91)
Brendan Lemieux (48) - Blake Lizotte (46) - Arthur Kaliyev (34)
Michael Anderson (44) - Drew Doughty (8)
Sean Durzi (50) - Matt Roy (3)
Alexander Edler (2) - Sean Walker (26)
Cal Petersen (40)
The Kings have a Wyatt Johnston type decision to make with 2021 overall number eight pick Brandt Clarke. Eight games in, and the general consensus is that he will stick. That said, the Kings defense has, unusually, been a mess. Head coach Todd McLellan called the team out on their run and gun style after a recent loss to Winnipeg. Los Angeles has given up four or more goals in seven of their first eleven games, but only once in their last four.
Quinton Byfield, the number two overall pick in the 2020 draft, has been out for several days with an undisclosed illness.
Los Angeles is coming off a 5-1 win in St. Louis on Monday night, for once this season leaving the Stars as the more rested team.
Keys to the Game
Goaltending. No sense hiding the lede. The Kings netminding hasn’t been great this year, and their defense has been giving up high danger chances (and haven’t been controlling the neutral zone), so getting a few goals would go a long way to helping Wedgewood transition into his new role.
Scoring Line/Shutdown Line. As much as there have been contributions down the lineup, the Stars still rely on Hintz, Robertson and Pavelski. The Kings have an outstanding defensive line centered by Danault. Sometimes matchups matter, and this is one that should.
Miro/No Miro. Heiskanen drawing in solves a lot of the Stars defensive issues, especially zone exits. Without him, the Stars need to figure out a way to clear their defensive zone cleanly and to utilize their speed for rush attacks against a vulnerable Kings defense.