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31 in 31

Three questions facing Dallas Stars

NHL-worst penalty kill, who will move from center to wing among main concerns

by Sean Shapiro / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three questions facing the Dallas Stars.

The Dallas Stars are hoping to reap the rewards of a busy offseason.

After failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Stars chose to not retain coach Lindy Ruff, who had completed his four-year contract, and brought back Ken Hitchcock, who coached Dallas from 1995-2002 and won the Stanley Cup in 1999.

The Stars solidified their goaltending by signing Ben Bishop to a six-year contract after acquiring him in a trade from the Los Angeles Kings on May 9. Dallas also acquired defenseman Marc Methot in a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights and signed forwards Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal in free agency. 

 

[STARS 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]

 

1. Can the Stars fix the penalty kill?

Dallas had the worst penalty kill in the NHL last season (73.9 percent). It was the lowest penalty-kill percentage in the NHL since the 1993-94 Ottawa Senators (73.3 percent). Adding Hanzal and Methot should help, and the addition of assistant coach Rick Wilson also will be a factor. As an assistant under Hitchcock, Wilson was the architect behind the Stars' consistent penalty kill in the late 1990s and more recently with the St. Louis Blues. The Stars also are expecting big things on the penalty kill from center Radek Faksa, who has said he could benefit and learn from Hanzal.

 

2. Who moves to wing?

When the Stars signed Hanzal, they created a bit of a logjam at center. Hitchcock is dedicated to using Tyler Seguin as the No. 1 center, meaning that either Hanzal or Jason Spezza likely will have to move to wing this season. Hanzal has never played wing in his NHL career, and Spezza has been at his best in Dallas when at center. It's going to be an interesting decision for the new coaching staff. The Stars do have a history of turning centers into wings; captain Jamie Benn started his NHL career at center before moving to left wing.

Video: 31 in 31: Dallas Stars 2017-18 preview

 

3. What will the defense pairs look like?

Dallas shored up its defense by trading for Methot but still has decisions to make. Julius Honka is expected to make the NHL roster out of training camp, meaning the Stars need to sort out what to do with Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth and Greg Pateryn, and decide whether they'll have seven or eight defensemen on the roster. On top of that, there is a chance that Miro Heiskanen, the third pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, could have an impressive training camp and add to the logjam on defense. General manager Jim Nill has said he's comfortable bringing that many players into training camp and letting the situation sort itself out.

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