The Dallas Stars, who haven’t played a game since Dec. 20 due to a COVID-19 shutdown, are set to play host to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Florida has the best home record in the NHL at 18-3-0, but the Panthers are much more beatable on the road at 4-4-4.
Dallas has played well at home (11-3-1), but it’s anyone’s guess how they will fare after such a long layoff.
In addition, the Stars need to get more production from their stars, including Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, each with just 12 points. Jamie Benn, with 15 points, hasn’t been much better. Radulov has a minus-14 rating, Seguin is minus-nine, and Benn is minus-two.
That trio combined for 123 points in the shortened 2019-2020 season, when they led the Stars to the Stanley Cup Finals.
But Seguin, who turns 30 this month, was limited to just three games last season due to hip and knee injuries. He’s had to change his game a bit due to the way he is being used and also because he is perhaps not quite 100 percent the player that he was pre-injury.
“Sometimes it gets frustrating because I can’t play the same kind of game as in the past,” said Seguin, who scored in Dallas’ most recent game, a 7-4 win over Minnesota. “I’m still trying to find a balance between muck and grinder and the more fluid style I had (previously).”
Seguin said he used Dallas’ COVID-19 hiatus to hit the gym.
“I’m working on my explosiveness, the power in my right leg,” he said. “I’m taking advantage of the time off. I’ve looked at it as a blessing.”
Dallas’ No. 1 line consists of its top three scorers: Joe Pavelski (27 points), Jason Robertson (25) and Roope Hintz (22).
Seguin is working on the second line with Benn and Denis Gurianov. Radulov anchors the third line.
Braden Holtby leads Dallas in goalie starts with 14, and he is 5-7-1 with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. Jake Oettinger is 7-2-0 with a 2.24 GAA and a .922 SP.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have been impressive, ranking No. 2 in the league in scoring. They are also No. 2 in ESPN’s most recent power rankings.
On Tuesday night, the Panthers routed Calgary 6-2, impressing Flames coach Darryl Sutter, whose team had entered that game ranked No. 1 in the NHL in fewest goals allowed.
“That’s a different-level team,” Sutter said of the Panthers. “Some of our guys couldn’t take their size and speed. That’s a (Panthers) team that’s built and meant for playoff hockey.”
The Panthers, who have never won the Stanley Cup, are serious contenders thanks to players such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Anthony Duclair and Sergei Bobrovsky.
Huberdeau leads the Panthers in assists (31) and points (42). Duclair leads the team in goals with 13, and Barkov is second (12) even though he has missed eight games.
Bobrovsky is 15-3-2 with a 2.45 GAA and a .921 SP.
Florida is on a four-game win streak, having outscored those opponents 24-10, and that includes elite squads such as the Rangers and Lightning.
The Panthers beat the Flames on Tuesday without forwards Mason Marchment and Sam Reinhart. But this is a deep team, all the way from it stars to fourth-line guys such as Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Lomberg.
“They remind me of my little brother,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said of Lomberg and Hornqvist. “They are a menace. They are our heartbeat because they bring it every night.”
–Field Level Media