Stars Kickoff Home-Heavy April Schedule Against Islanders

Dallas faces a week’s worth of Eastern Conference competition at American Airlines Center.

Sleepwalking through a Pacific Division road trip finally came back to bite the Dallas Stars in a loss to the Seattle Kraken on Saturday night. It’s not like Dallas didn’t have their chances, but they didn’t take advantage of their opportunities, and a succession of breakaways and odd-man rushes finally overwhelmed Jake Oettinger.

It was the Stars’ third game in four days, including travel, and the team came out with little energy and dead legs. Alexander Radulov drew the press box straw, so Joel Kiviranta returned to the lineup, but didn’t get much time to demonstrate that he deserves more than this single game.

We did see Denis Gurianov on a few shifts with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Radek Faksa also missed a few shifts, giving Vladislav Namestnikov some time on the erstwhile checking line. There’s probably not a whole lot to read into any of this; Rick Bowness needed to get some energy into the game, and mixing and matching the forward groups is one of those tried and somewhat true methods of getting that done.

The Stars blue line is another thing altogether, and several items deserve mention.

First, Seattle’s successful use of stretch passes to expose the Dallas back end is disturbing, as was the lack of coverage by a rotating F3 when defenders activated from the blue line. Oettinger survived quite a few high danger chances throughout the first few periods, but the problem never got fixed and after Dallas pulled within a goal in the third period, it was a breakaway that finished off the comeback.

In addition, the Kraken were able to set up the cycle. Don’t want to dwell on this, but but just maybe this happens when the team is missing Esa Lindell and Jani Hakanpaa at the same time.

On a positive note, the pairing of John Klingberg and Thomas Harley was outstanding, and don’t let the head coach’s post game comments take away from what the eye test showed and the analytics backed up. The pair had a 5-on-5 shot share over 70%, more than one expected goal for than expected goals against, and, when on the ice with the Stars’ top line, were a high danger scoring chance machine.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Vladislav Namestnikov (92) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Jacob Peterson (40) - Jamie Benn (14) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Michael Raffl (18) - Radek Faksa (12) - Luke Glendening (11)

Thomas Harley (55) - John Klingberg (3)
Ryan Suter (20) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Joel Hanley (44) - Andrej Sekera (5)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)

The New York Islanders come in on a four game win streak, and are 7-3-0 over their last 10. An early season slump put them firmly on the outside of the playoff picture, but Barry Trotz-coached teams tend to play a controlled game, so its hard to imagine the Stars icing anything other than the defense-first group that have dominated playing time this season.

New York Islanders Lineup

Anders Lee (27) - Brock Nelson (29) - Anthony Beauvillier (18)
Josh Bailey (12) - Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) - Kyle Palmieri (21)
Zach Parise (11) - Mathew Barzal (13) - Oliver Wahlstrom (26)
Matt Martin (17) - Casey Cizikas (53) - Ross Johnston (32)

Adam Pelech (3) - Ryan Pulock (6)
Zdeno Chara (33) - Noah Dobson (8)
Andy Greene (4) - Grant Hutton (7)

Semyon Varlamov (35)
Ilya Sorokin (30)

Ilya Sorokin is presumably back from an upper body injury with the Islanders sending Cory Schneider back to Bridgeport of the AHL this morning. Still, it’s expected that Varlamov will be in net to feast on the Stars. Ross Johnston takes the place of Cal Clutterbuck, who is out for the season, on the effective fourth line. The Islanders have a great top pair on defense, but they could be exposed with their second and third pairs.

Keys to the Game

Special Teams. Against the Kraken, there was a point where the Seattle penalty kill had a 6-0 shot advantage over the Stars power play. Put Klingberg with the top unit, and give Harley and Heiskanen a shot with the second group. It couldn’t be any worse?

Goaltending. This game has the feel of a low scoring tilt, and it could come down to a bounce or a netminder standing on his head.

Unknown Hero. The top lines could easily balance out. Someone down the lineup for either team will need to step up and be the difference maker.