Ice Cold Stars Storm into Vegas

The Golden Knights have some issues, but defense isn’t one of them.

The thing about rock bottom is that you’re never sure that you were there until you aren’t there anymore. Could the slump that the Dallas Stars find themselves in get any worse. Probably.

But at some point, a team that dominated play during the first half of the season should find its mojo again. Perhaps tonight.

Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, the power play found the back of the net. The team even raced out to a three goal lead. These are positive signs, if you want to accentuate the positive.

This year was supposed to be the year where production leadership would finally transition to the new generation. Tellingly, it was Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin leading off the scoring against Chicago. The captain and the aging superstar (and their overly large cap hits) can’t fade away into their presumed supporting roles if the top line can’t take charge.

Some of this is just hockey and its easy to get too excited during the good times and too depressed during the slumps. More times than not, things work themselves out without coaches and general managers hitting the panic button. On the other hand, the trade deadline is less than a week away, so if the team is going to make any changes, time is fleeting.

Playing the Vegas Golden Knights, the Stars are at least facing an opponent that isn’t in full on tank mode. They’re top of the Western Conference - a spot that Dallas held just a week or so ago. A worthy opponent in a hostile environment could be the cure to what’s ailing this group.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Denis Gurianov (34)
Mason Marchment (27) – Tyler Seguin (91) – Ty Dellandrea (10)
Fredrik Karlstrom (51) - Radek Faksa (12)

Miro Heiskanen (4) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Ryan Suter (20) – Nils Lundkvist (5)
Joel Hanley (44)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)

Cap gymnastics continue. Matt Murray was reassigned back to the Texas Stars, so Wedgewood is healthy enough to back up Oettinger.

With the quick turnaround, only one Freddy made the trip, so Hanley will be back looking somewhat confused on the forecheck.

Vegas Golden Knights Lineup

Paul Cotter (43) - Jack Eichel (9) - Jonathan Marchessault (81)
Reilly Smith (19) - William Karlsson (71) - Michael Amadio (22)
William Carrier (28) - Chandler Stephenson (20) - Phil Kessel (8)
Brett Howden (21) - Byron Froese (51) - Keegan Kolesar (55)

Alec Martinez (23) - Alex Pietrangelo (7)
Brayden McNabb (3) - Shea Theodore (27)
Nicolas Hague (14) - Zach Whitecloud(2)

Adin Hill (33)
Laurent Brossoit (39)
Michael Hutchinson (34)

The Stars have a history of mediocrity (don’t blame me, I’m just quoting the top coach in the NHL). Looking at the team stats for the Golden Knights, everything is basically middle of the pack. That kind of begs the question: how is such an average team at the top of the Western Conference?

A large part of that is at the blue line. Pietrangelo has eight goals, which leads defenders. The units strength is their lack of glaring weaknesses. Three solid pairs means that opponents need to earn their goals.

Offensively, there aren’t any standouts. Eichel and Smith lead the team with 19 goals each. Mark Stone is on injured reserve. Again, the strength is in consistency - Vegas can roll three balanced lines. The fourth line is a bit of an afterthought.

In net, mainstay Logan Thompson just went on injured reserve. Backup Adin Hill has missed the last two games, but is expected back against Dallas - but just in case, the Golden Knights are carrying both of the AHL affiliate Silver Knight’s goaltenders on the roster.

Keys to the Game

Top Line. The Stars shutout Vegas on January 16, behind goals from Benn, Seguin, Kiviranta and Suter. How’s that for depth scoring - but also something that isn’t going to be there night in and night out.

Oettinger and the backup curse. A month ago, it was 4-0. Nothing like a goalie game to turn a team around.

Special Teams. Once one goes in....