The odds of a perfect road trip were never high, and if there was going to be a loss, the game against the Vancouver Canucks was both the most likely and least damaging to the Stars march toward the playoffs.
Yes, it was day two of a back to back, and Matt Murray was in net for his second NHL game. Perhaps of more importance, the second line that started the road trip was reduced to Max Domi.
Domi started the Canuck game centering Joel Kiviranta and Ty Dellandrea, but by the second period, Radek Faksa had been promoted to second line center, with Kiviranta moving back to the fourth line. For Domi, the playmaker, it remains to be seen whether he can be productive playing on a line without a finisher.
Hey - at least we didn’t get Patrick Kane instead.
Not doing seeing to suggest he's "energized" with his new team or whatever. pic.twitter.com/L3COZQAyT7— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 15, 2023
Luke Glendening made his return to the lineup against the Canucks, and was.... pretty good. The fourth line only gave up a single (low quality) shot for the game, and maintained a shot share north of 80%. With injuries taking out the second line, having a reliable checking line with a top notch faceoff winning center is not the worst thing in the world.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Max Domi (18) – Radek Faksa (12) - Ty Dellandrea (10)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Evgenii Dadonov (63)
Joel Kiviranta (25) - Luke Glendening (11) – Fredrik Olofsson (42)
Miro Heiskanen (4) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Ryan Suter (20) – Nils Lundkvist (5)
Jake Oettinger (29)
Matt Murray (32)
Edmonton Oilers Lineup
Evander Kane (91) - Connor McDavid (97) - Kailer Yamamoto (56)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) - Leon Draisaitl (29) - Zach Hyman (18)
Klim Kostin (21) - Nick Bjugstad (72) - Mattias Janmark (26)
Warren Foegele (37) - Devin Shore (19) - Derek Ryan (10)
Darnell Nurse (25) - Cody Ceci (5)
Mattias Ekholm (14) - Evan Bouchard (2)
Brett Kulak (27) - Vincent Desharnais (73)
Jack Campbell (36)
Stuart Skinner (74)
Keeping the puck out of the net is the challenge that continues to keep the Oilers a bottom end playoff team. Campbell signed a $5 million a year contract that extends through 2027, and has proceeded to put up career worst NHL numbers. Skinner has been a pleasant surprise - with Mike Smith out, he’s turned into the Oilers #1 after being mostly an AHL goalie prior to this season.
Stuart Skinner will start vs. DAL. In the starter’s net this morning. #Oilers— Tony Brar (@TonyBrarOTV) March 16, 2023
Point per game forward, Zach Hyman missed the last game with an undisclosed injury, but appears to be drawing back in against the Stars.
Edmonton made a few larger moves at the trade deadline. Ekholm was brought in from Nashville to replace Tyson Barrie on the blueline. Bjugstad moved in to bolster center depth (and size) from Arizona for prospects. Finally, the Oilers ended their troubled relationship with Jesse Puljujarvi, opening some cap space to do the other deals.
With 14 games remaining, the Oilers are in a battle with the Seattle Kraken for the third spot in the Pacific Division standings. A wild card spot is there for the taking as well, but Edmonton is in a position to be a contender, but a disaster could still find them on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
Several ex-Stars on the ice for the Oilers. All around good guy Devin Shore and defensive specialist Mattias Janmark.
With the season winding down, this game could have a playoff feel.
Keys to the Game
Bounce Back. Turn the page on Vancouver and get back to the slick offense that was putting up at least four goals a game. This isn’t likely to be a lockdown game, so having the offense up and running (early) is vital.
Defenders (other than Heiskanen). Miro Heiskanen is one of the few - if not the only - defender who can keep up with McDavid. It’s fun to watch the best go head to head. Nobody else on the Stars blueline can come close to staying with the best player in the league, so Dallas will need a scheme to slow McDavid down.
The Otter Factor. Oettinger seems to take on the challenges, and raise the level of his play to match the competition. Don’t be surprised if Otter steals one.