Struggling Stars return to ice against Panthers

NHL

The Dallas Stars, who have not won a game since Feb. 2, are set to visit the Florida Panthers on Monday night in Sunrise, Fla.

Dallas has had eight games postponed this season. The first four games of the season were postponed due to a COVID-19 protocol issue on the Stars, and that included two scheduled contests against Florida.

More recently, the Stars had four straight games postponed due to the worst winter storm in Texas in decades, an event that caused power outages throughout the state.

Due to all those postponements, the Stars will need to play a heavy schedule to try to catch up, and that includes five road games in the next eight days.

Dallas has lost five straight games, although three of those contests were decided after regulation. The Stars, though, just want to play, something they haven’t done since Feb. 13.

“It will be nine days between games,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said of what the gap will be by Monday night. “This (break) has been like our third training camp in a month.

“The guys are frustrated. Practice time is important, but so is mental health. (Friday’s practice) was a fun day and a mental-health day.”

It hasn’t been much fun lately for Stars goalie Anton Khudobin, who is 0-3-1 with a 4.25 goals-against average in his past four starts.

But Khudobin has kept things in perspective as he has hosted, in his house, several teammates who have suffered through power outages.

“I have 11 people at my house,” Khudobin said. “We’re like a family on this team. We hold each other really tight.”

Bowness said he will need both Khudobin (3-3-1, 2.75 GAA this season) and rookie backup Jake Oettinger (2-0-3, 2.31 GAA) during this stretch of five games in eight days.

The Panthers, who are coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to the lowly Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, are nevertheless off to a great start overall.

Florida had won three straight games prior to that loss.

Among individual players, Alex Wennberg has been particularly hot for the Panthers, scoring five goals over his past eight games. Last season, Wennberg scored five goals all season, getting those tallies in 57 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“My game is getting better and better,” Wennberg told FOX Sports Florida. “Scoring goals is nice, but I try to play all over the ice — offensively and defensively.”

The Panthers, who took six of eight points in their just-concluded road trip, have been resilient all season. That is evidenced by their 4-0-0 record after a loss.

Jonathan Huberdeau leads Florida in assists (15) and points (22). Patric Hornqvist leads the team in goals (eight).

Two Panthers goalies split starts: Chris Driedger (6-1-1, 2.34 GAA) and Sergei Bobrovsky (5-2-1, 3.18 GAA).

They will try to shut down a Stars offense led by Joe Pavelski (team-high nine goals, team-high 17 points) and John Klingberg (team-high 10 assists).

But the Stars have some key players out due to injuries, including goalie Ben Bishop (knee), defenseman Stephen Johns (concussion) and forwards Alexander Radulov (lower body), Tyler Seguin (hip) and Roope Hintz (lower body).

–Field Level Media

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