The Dallas Stars were sprinting up the Central Division standings on the strength of a 7-1-1 run before stumbling in the final two stops of their three-game road trip.
The task of getting back up to speed will be tough on Tuesday when the Stars attempt to slow Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and the visiting Edmonton Oilers.
“They are two elite players. They are great players, they are fun to watch. They are both worth the price of admission,” Dallas interim coach Rick Bowness said Monday. “When you are playing those guys, there is on-ice awareness. And a big part of playing against those two guys is playing as much as you can in their zone, not giving them any odd-man (rushes).”
Naturally, that’s easier said than done, as the Nashville Predators can attest. Draisaitl recorded his first career four-goal performance and added an assist on Monday, while McDavid scored one goal and set up four others in Edmonton’s 8-3 romp in the Music City.
“Those nights don’t happen all the time,” Draisaitl said. “Sometimes pucks just bounce your way a little bit and you capitalize on chances that we maybe didn’t throughout the year.”
Draisaitl has a career-best 107 points (43 goals, 64 assists) while McDavid has 94 (32 goals, 62 assists), and both made their presence felt in two meetings with the Stars this season.
Draisaitl scored and set up a goal in Edmonton’s 5-4 overtime loss on Nov. 16 before converting on the power play in a 2-1 win at Dallas on Dec. 16. McDavid had three assists in the first encounter and two in the second.
Ben Bishop will be tasked with keeping Draisaitl and McDavid in check. The Stars’ towering goaltender has struggled in two encounters this season, although he sports a 7-3-1 record with a 2.16 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage in 13 career appearances (12 starts) vs. the Oilers.
Captain Jamie Benn and fellow forward Tyler Seguin comprise a potent pair for the Stars. Benn carries a five-game point streak (one goal, five assists) into Tuesday’s game, while Seguin owns three goals and an assist in his past four games.
Seguin, who has scored two goals and set up two others against Edmonton, tallied Saturday in Dallas’ 4-3 shootout loss at St. Louis. Two days earlier, the Stars fell 4-3 at Boston.
The Stars reside seven points behind the first-place Blues and six in back of surging the Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division.
“You watch the standings a little bit,” Seguin said. “Colorado’s a good team, St. Louis is taking off, so we’re just trying to stay in the mix and still hunt down first place.”
Edmonton is entertaining similar aspirations in the top-heavy Pacific Division. The Oilers have won back-to-back games to sit two points behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights.
–Field Level Media