The Flames are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the L.A. Kings on Tuesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Matthew Tkachuk was a monster for the homeside, bringing his team off the mat with a timely, second-period snipe, tying the game with 1:04 to play in regulation, and adding an assist in between as the Flames rallied from a 3-0 deficit to force OT.
Tkachuk, whose late tally was an absolute beauty - scooping the puck out of midair and softly bunting it past the netminder in a mind-bending show of hand-eye - finished the night with three points, a game-high seven hits, and had a running feud with Kings defenceman Drew Doughty that made for some great theatre.
David Rittich saw plenty of rubber, stopping 36 of the 40 shots he faced. He enters tonight's contest with a .924 save percentage and a 2.68 goals-against average.
Salvaging a point was a positive for the Flames after being outshot 20-3 and falling behind early in the opening stanza, but the players know they have to be better with a tough trip on tap.
"There's lots of work to be done," said head coach Bill Peters. "They're a pretty intelligent group. … They're aware that the emotional investment at the beginning of the game wasn't good enough."
The Flames will have a different look up front tonight, with Andrew Mangiapane moving up to the second line with Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund. The 23-year-old has been driving the play offensively through the first three games, topping the Flames with a Corsi-For percentage of 65.2, while starting the majority of his even-strength shifts in the defensive zone.
On the backend, Michael Stone could see his first action of the season tonight after skating alongside T.J. Brodie on the Flames' third pair at Wednesday's practice.
Following tonight's game, the Flames will head west to begin a back-to-back set on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights, before finishing off the trip on Sunday in San Jose.
The Stars are off to a tough start, dropping their first three games to the Bruins, Blues and re-building Red Wings, before picking up their first win on Tuesday in Washington.
Roope Hintz, Alexander Radulov and Nick Caamano scored in regulation before Tyler Seguin put the winning strike past Caps goalie Braden Holtby, 43 seconds into overtime.
"That was our worst game of the year," Stars coach Jim Montgomery told Mike Heika of DallasStars.com, "and we got a result.
"It was good to get the result."
The Stars were outshot 27-11 in the first two periods, but rallied to outshot the Capitals 15-5 the rest of the way.
"We can build off the fact that we can't play that poorly to start a game," Montgomery said. "That's what we have to build off.
"And then that third period, that emotion that we had with everybody contributing, that's the positive we have to build off of."
While many are expecting the Stars to contend for the Central Division title this year, injuries have taken their toll and have likely contributed to their slow start. Corey Perry (broken foot), Martin Hanzal (back), Jason Dickinson (upper body), Blake Comeau (lower body), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches) and Roman Polak (undisclosed) are all out.
Still, this remains a talented squad that underwent significant changes over the summer and will be a handful.
The Stars made a splash on Jul. 1, signing longtime Shark Joe Pavelski to a lucrative, three-year contract, adding to an already loaded offensive arsenal that includes Seguin, Radulov, Jamie Benn and more.
Defensively, they're a team that allowed the second-fewest goals (200) last year behind the New York Islanders (191), and are led by 2018-19 Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop, along with young, stud blueliners Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg.
This is the first of three meetings between these two teams, and the first of a pair to be held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Last year, the Stars took all three, but the Flames did manage a point in a 4-3 overtime loss Nov. 28 in Calgary. … Mark Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau and T.J Brodie led the Flames in head-to-head scoring, each nabbing two points in the three-game set.
The teams will renew pleasantries on Nov. 13 at the Scotiabank Saddledome before finishing off the three-game set on Dec. 22 in the Lone Star State.
THIS: With 174 goals already in his young career, 24-year-old Sean Monahan sits tied with Flames legend Jarome Iginla for the most goals in franchise history before the player's 25th birthday. Overall, Monahan is 10th in franchise lore for the most goals, period, and is currently on pace to pass Kent Nilsson (189) this year. … THAT:Johnny Gaudreau is tied with Lanny McDonald for the fifth-most multi-point games in franchise history with 101. … THE OTHER: Stars goalie coach Jeff Reese played 39 games over three seasons for the Flames, from 1991 to '94, finishing with a record of 17-6-3, an .883 save percentage and a 3.39 goals-against average.
Andersson is likely to play on the top pair, riding shotgun with captain Mark Giordano. The big Swede had an assist on Tkachuk's game-tying goal the other night, and has been leaned on heavily in the first three games with an average ice time of 17-plus minutes. He enters tonight's game leading all Calgary blueliners with a Corsi-For percentage of 52.4, with the majority of his deployments coming in the defensive end of the rink.
Stars - Joe Pavelski
Don't let the slow start fool you. With just one assist and four shots through Dallas' first four games, the five-time 30-goal scorer won't be silenced for long.