On Saturday night, for the second time in two weeks, the Dallas Stars face off against the Calgary Flames - this time on the road. Two weeks ago, twice the Stars fought back from two down, only to lose the game by giving up a goal with six seconds remaining.
It’s Calgary, so you know what to expect. The Flames will throw their weight around trying to draw the more skilled Stars into a war of attrition. Head Coach Darryl Sutter has juggled his lines a bit, but the only change is expected to be 6’4”, 220 pound, Adam Ruzicka replacing 5’9”, 165 pound Jakob Pelletier.
There has to be a certain comfort knowing your team identity, even if it isn’t going to get you to the playoffs. The Flames certainly bring the beef every time, but their results are somewhat inexplicable. Since beating the Stars, they have wins against the Minnesota Wild, the Ottawa Senators and have blown out the Vegas Golden Knights. Their two losses were to the Anaheim Ducks and Arizona Coyotes. Bizarre.
In the meantime, the Stars solidified behind three scoring lines, only to see lower body injuries decimate the putative second line - leaving newcomer Max Domi searching for linemates who are finishers. You know, guys who can put his slick passes into the net.
Luke Glendening is back, and with Tyler Seguin and Mason Marchment both out, Dallas finds itself with an overabundance of grinders. The team is just finishing off a six game road trip, as are the Texas Stars, but once both teams find their way back to the Lone Star State, it might be time for some I-35 travel.
Scott Wedgewood should be close to a return - and all props to Remi Poirier for jumping in as #1 in net for Texas - but the guys in Cedar Park could use Matt Murray back for the stretch run.
Likewise, Fredrik Olofsson has been a solid fourth liner, but with Glendening healthy and not going anywhere, what Dallas needs is a middle six scorer. It would be great if Riley Damiani hadn’t regressed this year, or Mavrik Bourque was further into his professional learning curve, or even a hope that Riley Barber could take his AHL game to the NHL level. Even Matej Blumel should get consideration - although thinking about him on a line with Domi is enough to make any defender have night sweats.
Let’s not even mention Thomas Harley.
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) – Joel Hanley (44)
Jake Oettinger (29)
Matt Murray (32)
I’ve penciled Hanley into the posted lineup. It’s reverse psychology, since the last few times its been Lundqvist penciled in, but Hanley on the scoresheet.
Calgary Flames Lineup
Andrew Mangiapane (88) - Elias Lindholm (28) - Tyler Toffoli (73)
Jonathan Huberdeau (10) - Mikael Backlund (11) - Blake Coleman (20)
Milan Lucic (17) - Nazem Kadri (91) - Trevor Lewis (22)
Nick Ritchie (27) - Adam Ruzicka (63) - Dillon Dube (29)
MacKenzie Weegar (52) - Rasmus Andersson (4)
Noah Hanifin (55) - Christopher Tanev (8)
Nikita Zadorov (16) - Troy Stecher (51)
Jacob Markstrom (25)
Daniel Vladar (80)
Keys to the Game
Don’t get hurt. If the Stars try to sleepwalk through Calgary like they did against the Edmonton Oilers, they’re going to get pounded awake. For safety’s sake, come out ready to skate.
Counter punch. A prime principal of the martial arts is to use your opponents aggression against them. Don’t get caught up in trying to go toe to toe with Calgary.
Jason Robertson. After watching Connor McDavid go off, Robertson’s motivation should be through the roof.