After beating the Chicago Blackhawks in a glorified scrimmage on Tuesday night, the Dallas Stars are back to the grind of a late season playoff push. The first step is a game in Mullett Arena against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night.
It’s a game that is easily overlooked, with a heavyweight battle against the Colorado Avalanche sitting on the horizon, 24 hours and 750 miles away.
But Arizona hasn’t been a pushover for the rest of the league since Dallas last saw them, a 4-2 home win that started the month of March. The Coyotes are 6-4-4 for the rest of the month, and only one of those games has been a blowout. Most of Arizona’s games have ended with a one goal difference, many going to overtime.
They’re on a five game losing streak, but those were mostly tight games against playoff teams.
With eight games remaining, if the Stars have any hope of topping the Central Division, the points from this game are vital – and with a dismal overtime record and a second game plus travel in the wings – Dallas could use a regulation win.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Max Domi (18) – Radek Faksa (12) – Tyler Seguin (91)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Evgeni Dadonov (63)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Ty Dellandrea (10) – Luke Glendening (11)
Miro Heiskanen (4) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Ryan Suter (20) – Joel Hanley (44)
Jake Oettinger (29)
Matt Murray (32)
Scott Wedgewood is scheduled to start for the Texas Stars as part of a conditioning assignment to the AHL, and if all goes well, he should be back with the NHL squad next week. Murray likely gets the start, with Oettinger taking the Avalanche game.
UPDATE – Pete DeBoer confirms that Oettinger is in net for Arizona. Plan for Colorado is TBD.
Arizona Coyotes Lineup
Clayton Keller (9) – Barrett Hayton (29) – Nick Schmaltz (8)
Matias Maccelli (63) – Jack McBain (22) – Lawson Crouse (67)
Liam O’Brien (38) – Travis Boyd (72) – Christian Fischer (36)
Milos Kelemen (21) – Nathan Smith (13) – Brett Ritchie (24)
Patrik Nemeth (2) – J. J. Moser (90)
Juuso Valimaki (4) – Joshua Brown (3)
Connor Mackey (12) – Victor Soderstrom (77)
Karel Vejmelka (70)
Connor Ingram (39)
The Coyotes are rested and have been splitting time between netminders. If they stick to that, Ingram should be in goal.
The team has been leaking shots, but the goalies have been holding up well. The secret to beating Arizona is keeping the top line off of the scoresheet. In particular, Keller has been putting up star quality numbers (36G, 45A, 81 points). All three forwards are have a positive +-, on a team with a goal differential of -51.
Keys to the Game
Depth. Dallas can roll four productive lines, and with Colorado on Saturday, the Stars need to keep ice time evenly divided.
Shut down lines. Arizona has had issues against quality top lines, which could be good news for Robertson in his pursuit of 50 goals and/or 100 points. The Coyotes will be looking for a good matchup for their top line, which means that Faksa needs to bring his “A” game.
Attention to detail. Odd man rushes, unforced turnovers and a general lack of structure have crept into the Stars game. A matchup against Arizona is a great opportunity to tighten things down.