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Can Stars make it six straight wins over Sabres?

Bishop back in net as Dallas begins four-game road trip with holiday matinee against Buffalo

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (1-4-1) at Sabres (4-0-1)

2 p.m., KeyBank Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Stars went into Saturday's contest with Washington on a 17-game home point streak (13-0-4) against the Capitals and a 25-2-6 overall record since 1996.

They lost 4-1.

Dallas today faces a Buffalo team that it has handled quite capably over the recent past. The Stars have won five straight against the Sabres and are 11-2-1 vs. Buffalo in their past 14 meetings.

The hope is they don't see an end to that good trend.

Still, this won't be easy.

Video: Montgomery says Stars lacked compete on power play

Buffalo is under the direction of new head coach Ralph Krueger and is off to a 4-0-1 start. Krueger is an intriguing individual in that he has a strong history in both hockey and soccer. He was born in Canada but grew up in both Canada and Germany. He became a hockey coach in Germany and worked his way back to Canada, coaching the Edmonton Oilers for the 2012-13 season. He also was the head coach of Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey.

In 2014, Krueger became chairman for Southampton F.C. of the English Premier League and he served in that title until 2019. In the summer, he was hired to be the next head coach of the Sabres.

Krueger walks into a good situation, as Buffalo has loaded up on draft picks in recent years, getting Rasmus Dahlin first overall in 2018, Jack Eichel second overall in 2015 and Sam Reinhart second overall in 2014. Both Eichel and Dahlin have seven points in five games, and are key reasons why the Sabres are off to a fast start.

For the Stars, they're in a bit of a desperate situation. They played poorly against Washington Saturday and are off to a 1-4-1 start. That's not a huge hole to climb out of in an 82-game season, but it just means that every additional loss really stings. They are talking about "playoff" mode and needing to collect a lot of points on this four-game road trip, and that's a tough place to be.

Get a couple of wins, and they should be able to relax a little. Lose this one, and the pressure gets dialed up even more.

 

What to watch

Special teams are becoming a real focus for the Stars, as they either put themselves on the penalty kill too often and too early or they squander any power-play chances they have.

To be fair, this is a very good penalty-killing team. Assistant coach Rick Bowness always has his killers prepared, and the Stars do a good job of mixing aggression with intelligence to make it hard on the opposition.

Video: Seguin: Stars taking 'playoff mentality' on road trip

That said, Washington shredded the penalty kill on Saturday and Buffalo currently has the hottest power play in the league at 42.1 percent success rate. The Sabres have scored on 8-of-19 power plays, and that's a key reason for the fast start. With the Stars averaging 2.17 goals per game, they can't afford to give up too many man advantage tallies.

On the flip side, the Stars went 0-for-6 on the power play against the Capitals and took any momentum out of their game. Dallas is shuffling bodies all over the place and not getting the results it wants. Even one power play goal would help move things forward as the Stars are succeeding at a 5.0 percent rate (1-for-20), which ranks 27th in the NHL.

 

Bishop back in net for holiday matinee

With a 3 p.m. local start (holiday matinee for Columbus Day) and no practice on Sunday, we won't really know if there are any big lineup changes until just before the game.

Video: DAL@BUF: Bishop turns in third consecutive shutout

Ben Bishop will be back in net, and he has a great history against the Sabres. Bishop is 12-0-1 lifetime against Buffalo with a 1.37 GAA and .951 save percentage. He has won 12 straight against the Sabres.

 

By the numbers

 

6

That's the total amount of points for Tyler Seguin (two goals, one assist), Jamie Benn (one goal, one assist) and John Klingberg (one assist) in the first six games of the season. If you're looking for a scoring breakout from the top three, this might be the game.

In 15 career games against Buffalo, Benn has 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) and is plus-8. In 27 career games against the Sabres, Seguin has 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) and is plus-12. In 10 games against Buffalo, Klingberg has 12 points (no goals, 12 assists) and is plus-7.

 

49.1

The Sabres rank 19th in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage at 49.1 percent. Dallas ranks 10th at 51.1 percent, but is coming off a rough game against Washington where it won 46 percent of the draws (31-37). The Stars were fourth in the NHL last season at 51.9 percent, and need to get back to that type of winning percentage.

 

21:50

That's the average time on ice per game for Seguin, sixth among forwards in the NHL so far this season. Seguin averages almost two minutes more than the next closest forward on the Stars, Joe Pavelski at 18:58.

 

He said it

"I think there's no question it has a carryover effect. You don't build momentum. Now, that being said, we didn't generate much 5-on-5 either."

-- Montgomery on if the lack of power-play success is hurting the team at even strength

 
Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski

Jason Dickinson - Radek Faksa - Joel L'Esperance

Andrew Cogliano - Rhett Gardner - Nick Caamano

Esa Lindell - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Joel Hanley

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: C Justin Dowling, D Taylor Fedun.

Injuries: LW Blake Comeau (lower body), D Roman Polak (sternum), RW Corey Perry (foot), D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back).

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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