Tired Stars Square Off Against Rested Panthers

When you go to Florida in the winter, you aren’t supposed to work every day that you’re there. Fortunately, Khudobin gets the night off.

Happy holidays from Anton Khudobin.

There isn’t much to learn from this one, so the rest of this commentary comes courtesy of Dallas Stars people across the Twitter ‘verse.

Here I go

Playin’ star again

There I go

Turn the page

* * *

One final thought from head coach Rick Bowness:  “Take it and run.”

On the other hand...

The Florida Panthers are in the final game of a nine-game home stand, that has seen them go 4-4-0. They have yet to be on the road in December, and haven’t played a game since Monday’s 6-1 destruction of the Ottawa Senators. Since it’s the NHL, this is game one of a back-to-back, and after tonight’s game the team heads to Carolina for a Saturday night showdown with the Hurricanes.

After facing the league’s two top power plays over their last two games, the Stars get a mild break against the Panthers. The first unit, run by Keith Yandle, is good, but there is a significant drop-off to the second unit.

Where Florida stands out is an area where the Stars could use some work: not taking penalties in the first place. The Florida penalty kill is somewhat average, but they don’t spend much time on the ice.

Up front, the Panthers run three lines with a makeshift fourth. Brian Boyle missed the game against the Senators, forcing Florida to put out an 11-forward, seven-defender lineup. Boyle is a game time decision for tonights game. Within the three lines, Florida spreads the minutes and the talent. There are five forwards whose goal totals are in the double digits, but Brett Connolly leads the team with 14. Given the Stars’ depth, three balanced lines shouldn’t cause problems.

Florida is also balanced on the defensive end, with Aaron Ekblad leading the way and playing all situations. All three pairs find ice time against the opposing lines, although Yandle and his partner are sheltered from top scoring units.

Sergei Bobrovsky gets the majority of the starts, and Florida has played two netminders as his backup. Chris Driedger had a superb record with the Springfield Thunderbirds, and is 1-1-0 with great supporting numbers since being called up. With the back-to-back, the Stars could see Driedger in net on Friday night.

Dallas Stars Lineup

There are no updates from morning skate. Before last nights game, the team indicated that everyone was expected to draw in at some point during the Florida swing, which would put Justin Dowling and Taylor Fedun into the lineup against the Panthers.

Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Denis Gurianov (34) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Corey Perry (10)

Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Roman Polak (45)

Ben Bishop (30)

Florida Panthers Lineup

Frank Vatrano (77) - Aleksander Barkov (16) - Brett Connolly (10)
Jonathan Huberdeau (11) - Vincent Trocheck (21) - Noel Acciari (55)
Mike Hoffman (68) - Denis Malgin (62) - Evgeni Dadonov (63)
Colton Sceviour (7) - Dominic Toninato (14) - Brian Boyle (9)

MacKenzie Weegar (52) - Aaron Ekblad (5)
Michael Matheson (19) - Anton Stralman (6)
Keith Yandle (3) - Josh Brown (2)

Sergei Bobrovsky (72)

Keys to the Game

Goaltending. Florida’s main weakness this year has been in the net, and with Ben Bishop in net, the Stars should have a distinct advantage.

Rust versus tired. Playing a team that hasn’t played since Monday, the Stars need to jump this one early before the Panthers get their skates and mitts back.

Special teams. If the Stars can keep out of the box, this should be an even-strength game — and at even strength, the Stars are the better team.

Did you know?

Rick Bowness has a winning NHL record against Joel Quenneville. 1-0-0-2 when coaching against him as a coach and 1-0 when coaching against him as a player.

The coaching battles featured current Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green and Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin. The final contest featured matching 10 minute misconducts as Green and Bergevin squared off against each other.

The lone victory for Bowness (the other two were old style NHL ties) featured St. Louis Blues defender Zdeno Chara, who got just over six minutes of ice time in his fourth NHL game.

Nine years earlier, on February 19, 1989, Bowness was behind the bench for the Winnipeg Jets after replacing Dan Maloney as head coach earlier that month. On that date, his team hosted the Hartford Whalers and Quenneville drew in. He had an unremarkable game where he didn’t register a shot in a 7-6 overtime loss to the Jets.

Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett also played in that game, plus a victory on February 11 for the Whalers, where he registered an assist in the 7-3 win.

Four games, but a whole lot of NHL history and connections there.

Thanks to @morehockeystats for helping me pull some of this together.