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Stars Continue West Coast Swing Against Sharks

Some things stay the same and some things don’t. Against the Anaheim Ducks, Tyler Seguin is still looking for his first regular-season goal. On the other hand, turns out this version of the Dallas Stars doesn’t need Seguin to hit the net to pull out wins at the Honda Center.

Frankly, neither team brought a whole lot of energy to the two-game series. The Stars rarely looked like they were on their heels, but still needed some late-game heroics in both games to pull out the full four points. Dallas rolled four lines, and three of them put together some dominating numbers – including what might be the best two-game stretch of the season by Radek Faksa’s line.

The outstanding question is what to do with Tyler Seguin and the mishmash of wingers that have seen time with him. Lately, the constant presence has been Vladislav Namestnikov. Rick Bowness has fond memories of the versatile forward from their shared time in Tampa Bay, but the aging curve hasn’t been kind since those times.

Denis Gurianov has found himself back in the doghouse, and until the Stars can find a way to take advantage of his speed while covering his defensive zone coverage, he’s probably going to find himself there periodically. Unfortunately, he’s a middle six forward on a team with no middle six center who can cover for him.

Jacob Peterson is on the verge of finding a permanent home in the lineup. There are still some holes in his game – he’s not great on the boards and his cycle defense is iffy – but he makes up for it by making plays in the offensive zone.

Marian Studenic and Joel Kiviranta can both bring energy and an aggressive forecheck, but neither has made an impact that would force them into the lineup. Personally, based on a limited data set, I’d love to see Kiviranta paired with Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn.

Speaking of Radulov, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he’s about to return to his old form. He’s back taking offensive zone penalites, so the goals and assists can’t be far behind.

Defensively, Miro Heiskanen is officially back. Dallas survived his absence, and John Klingberg seems to have found his game after being the teams number one option. Esa Lindell missed Thursday night’s game with an upper-body injury, but he’s still day to day.

The team is healthy and has decent options at every position, perhaps with the exception of goaltender – and after Scott Wedgewood’s first game as a Star, there’s reason to think the net is solid as well.

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)
Andrej Sekera (5) – Jani Hakanpaa (2)

Scott Wedgewood (41)
Jake Oettinger (29)

Esa Lindell is out again with an upper-body injury.

San Jose Sharks Lineup

Timo Meier (28) – Tomas Hertl (48) – Alexander Barabanov (94)
Matt Nieto (83) – Logan Couture (39) – Alexander Chmelevski (55)
John Leonard (43) – Nick Bonino (13) – Noah Gregor (73)
Rudolfs Balcers (92) – Scott Reedy (54) – Jeffrey Viel (63)

Jaycob Megna (24) – Brent Burns (88)
Erik Karlsson (65) – Nicolas Meloche (53)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) – Ryan Merkley (6)

James Reimer (47)
Kaapo Kahkonen (34)

The Sharks top line is still formidable and is the teams primary offensive threat. On the blue line, San Jose pairs veterans with 20 year olds. Burns and Karlsson still eat the most minutes and can move the puck, but there are holes to exploit if the Stars can get on the forecheck.

Keys to the Game

Energy. Like the Ducks, the Sharks are out of the playoff picture. At some point, going through the motions against a non-contender is going to come back to bite them.

First Line Matchups. San Jose is top heavy with their forward groups. Dallas likely will counter with the Faksa line. It was an effective trio on both sides of the ice in Anaheim, but two games isn’t a trend. As for the Stars, the Hintz line is due for a breakout – and Pavelski knows how to score in San Jose.

Hope. This is the first game of a back to back, with a trip to Seattle following the game. Taking hope out of the building will allow Dallas to roll four lines and conserve energy for the Kraken.

Talking Points