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Rejuvenated Stars Host Flames

The Dallas Stars are back. But which Dallas Stars?

Early on this season, Pete DeBoer’s new team showed off an unforeseen quality – the ability to beat up on the bottom feeders of the league. These new-fangled Stars could be competitive against the best of the league but they didn’t play down to their opponents. Nashville, Arizona, Philidelphia, even the Blues went down to the early-season Stars, and by large margins, too.

But as the New Year began and the All-Star Break hit, those also-rans started turning into Stars killers. Just like old times.

On Saturday afternoon, the flip side of that coin showed up (and we may have seen it late last month with the Stars’ 3-2 win in Vegas against the Golden Knights). Like the Dallas of old, this team played down to teams, but when they took on the league’s best, they upped their game. A 7-3 victory over the surging Colorado Avalanche is large, especially when all the struggling top talent ejected the troop of monkeys that had taken up residence on their collective backs.

With the addition of Evgeny Dadonov and Max Domi to the top nine, the fourth line performed like a quality depth line. They cycled the puck in the offensive zone, and the Stars were able to out-change Colorado multiple times. Time on ice reflected the improvement in quality, and the Stars cycled through all four lines for the first time in months.

The Calgary Flames find themselves on the bottom of the standings looking up at a Wild Card spot. They’re seven points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second Wild Card position, and with 19 games left in the season, they’ll be an insanely motivated team to try to spark a run that gets them into the playoff picture.

They haven’t been on a great streak lately. Since the All-Star break, Calgary is 3-6-4. They haven’t had a win streak longer than three games all season, so now is the time if they want to have a hope at making it. The trick here for Dallas is that highly motivated teams can be very hard to beat, and they should come out ready to match that intensity.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Evgeny Dadonov (63)
Mason Marchment (27) – Max Domi (18) – Tyler Seguin (91)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Radek Faksa (12) – Ty Dellandrea (10)

Miro Heiskanen (4) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Ryan Suter (20) – Nils Lundkvist (5)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Matt Murray (32)

Kiviranta has been skating without restriction, and is probable to be back in the lineup. The fourth line was good with Fredrik Olofsson on the left wing. Kiviranta adds some speed to the mix, and as a trio, this group should be hard on the forecheck. Olofsson is still with the team if Kiviranta can’t go.

Murray backing up Oettinger, with Scott Wedgewood still nursing a minor injury.

Calgary Flames Lineup

Jakob Pelletier (49) – Elias Lindholm (28) – Tyler Toffoli (73)
Nick Ritchie (27) – Nazem Kadri (91) – Jonathan Huberdeau (10)
Andrew Mangiapane (88) – Mikael Backlund (11) – Blake Coleman (20)
Milan Lucic (17) – Dillon Dube (29) – Trevor Lewis (22) –

Noah Hanifin (55) – Rasmus Andersson (4)
MacKenzie Weegar (52) – Christopher Tanev (8)
Nikita Zadorov (16) – Troy Stecher (51)

Jacob Markstrom (25)
Daniel Vladar (80)

Update:

The Flames were pretty quiet at the trade deadline, exchanging Ritchie brothers (they picked up Nick), and also picking up third pair defender Troy Stecher from Arizona.

Duehr and Pelletier have been on the same paper transaction, cap saving bus as the Freddies have for the Stars. At some point, Nick Ritchie will draw in, likely replacing Duehr.

Calgary had high hopes heading into the year – and they still have a chance to make the playoffs – but they’ve been betrayed by their goaltending. Both Markstrom and Vladar have a save percentage around 89%,

There is still skill throughout the lineup, and the Flames play a heavy game. This game will be a good test for the Stars as they try to move forward after the solid game that the team played against Colorado.

Keys to the Game

Big Game Hangover. The team was keyed up for the Avalanche, which is usually followed by a letdown. One of the big changes for the Stars on Saturday was their intensity in the first period, and that fast start set up the rest of the game.

Physicality. The Flames like to throw their bodies around. Dallas doesn’t have the size to play that game, but if they avoid the physical confrontations, their skill should prove to be the differentiator. The team needs the Jamie Benn who laughs and skates away.

Max Domi. Centering Seguin and Marchment, the first game of Domi was good, but not great. Questions remain about whether the lines scoring can offset their defensive deficiencies.