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First road trip in nearly 11 months 'a new experience' for Stars

Dallas has little time to get readjusted to life away from home, facing Carolina for a weekend back-to-back

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (4-0-0, 8 points) at Hurricanes (3-1-0, 6 points)

6 p.m. CT, PNC Arena

TV: FOX Sports Southwest PLUS

Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM


The Stars' last real road trip ended in Nashville on March 5.

They were on the road while playing 27 games in the playoff bubble, but they got used to Rogers Place and their Edmonton hotel, so that was unique in its own way.

On Saturday, they will play at Carolina -- their first real road game in almost 11 months.

"It's totally different than the bubble," Stars coach Rick Bowness said.

The Stars have played four games at home, and they have worked out in Frisco, but this will be their first game on a different ice surface. In addition, they flew out Friday and had to follow the NHL's protocol for road travel.

Video: Bowness: 'Nothing normal' about Stars' 1st road trip

"It's definitely kind of weird just being on the road in general, going on flights getting into town, you definitely feel it," defenseman Jamie Oleksiak said after the morning skate.

Oleksiak said that going through things like a normal morning skate helps players get into their routine and familiarize themselves with the ice surface, the boards, and how they go through their preparation.

"You have to get in a routine and make sure at the morning skate that you're getting used to the new surface, getting your feet under you, and you're doing the things off the ice to make sure you're ready for the game," Oleksiak said. "It's definitely a new experience, but it's where we're at right now."

Carolina also has gone through COVID stoppages, so they also have played only four games. Some teams have played nine or more games already. The two teams right now could be among the better teams in the Central Division, so this could be the start of a fun rivalry this season.

"They're like us, their roster has fluctuated from where they started to where they are now because of the same issues as us," Bowness said. "This is going to be a very hard-fought game tonight. There's not going to be a lot of room out there on the ice. It's going to be a patient game."


Benn, out since opening night, to be a game-time decision

The Stars have dealt with all sorts of challenges so far, including shutting down practices for a week because 17 players tested positive for COVID-19. Because of that, the coaching staff has adopted a plan where they will allow players to bow out of a practice or morning skate if they don't feel good.

"Managing our schedule is going to be a huge part of any success we're going to have this year. We've got to get it right," Bowness said. "They're the ones that know how they feel, they're the ones that know if they're feeling fatigued and we'll give them a day off."

Jamie Benn worked out very hard before training camp and looked great before the first game. However, he appeared to hurt his knee in a collision, and missed the next three games.

Bowness said he feels Benn is in a good place to bounce back.

"Listen, he worked so hard in the offseason," Bowness said. "He was flying in training camp before the injury. When he gets back on the ice, we're expecting the same thing. His conditioning before the season was great. We'll get that going again."

That said, Bowness has been very vocal in saying that the coaches want players to be 100 percent comfortable before they return. Benn is a game-time decision for Saturday, because Bowness wants him to be healthy and ready to go.

Video: Heiskanen discusses defending Canes' offensive talent

"We're not going to put a player on the ice that hasn't had good practice time and doesn't feel good about their game," Bowness said. "If they need additional practices, they're going to get it. No one is going on that ice unless they're 100 percent and ready to go."

Benn and Blake Comeau have been practicing quite a bit, and that helps in the communication.

"We have great rapport with our players, and we trust our players, and they trust us," Bowness said. "You've got to build that trust between your players and your coaching staff. You know me, I'm very big on the communication from our coaches to our players. The players have to feel free to talk to us and say whatever's on their mind. We just go by that. If a player's not well, he'll tell us, and we trust him."

And with so many good players stepping in and helping out when injuries or illness creep up, it's become easier for top players to trust that the team can battle through.

"They're men. They're pros. They know how to act and how to behave and know what their responsibilities are," Bowness said. "If they're not up to 100 percent, they have to put the team first. If you're not up to snuff, then you have to let us know so we don't hurt the team. We play the guys that are feeling a little better."


Lineup updates

In addition to Benn and Comeau, Roope Hintz is also a game-time decision.

That, of course, could change the lineup greatly. If both Benn and Hintz return, the expectation is they will be on a line with Denis Gurianov. If Comeau returns, he will go on a line with Radek Faksa and Andrew Cogliano. That would mean the coaches would have to find a way to move Jason Dickinson and Ty Dellandrea to different spots.

It's a good problem to have for the Stars.

Tweet from @DallasStars: We���ve reassigned forwards Rhett Gardner and Joel L'Esperance to the Taxi Squad. The club has also loaned defenseman Thomas Harley to the @TexasStars. #GoStars

Dallas assigned forwards Rhett Gardner and Joel L'Esperance to the taxi squad on Friday, and kept Tanner Kero (who had two assists Thursday), so the lineup likely is going to be shuffled for the fifth straight game.

Anton Khudobin is expected to start in goal. He is 6-1-1 in his career against the Hurricanes with a 1.72 GAA and .939 save percentage. Khudobin played two seasons with the Hurricanes from 2013-15.

By the numbers

The Stars are 8-3-0 in their past 11 meetings with the Hurricanes, including 2-0-0 last season.



The Stars lead the NHL in power-play success rate at 52.6 percent. Their 10 power-play goals are the second most scored by a team in the first four games of the season.



The Stars rank third in the NHL in fewest shots on goal against per game at 23.8. Carolina ranks fourth at 25.0 shots on goals against.


He said it 

"You give the credit to the guys that stepped in tonight and the whole home stand and filled in the void of the injured players. Every one of them has done a wonderful job. A huge part of the success of this homestand is the ability of those guys, the younger players, to step in. Every man we've asked to step in and do a job has done that for us. We couldn't have had the homestand we had with the injuries we had without everyone stepping up and doing their job."

-- Bowness on how his depth players have stepped up during a 4-0-0 homestand to start the season.


Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Jason Dickinson - Denis Gurianov

Tanner Kero - Joe Pavelski - Alexander Radulov

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Nick Caamano - Justin Dowling - Ty Dellandrea

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen - Jamie Oleksiak

Andrej Sekera - Mark Pysyk

Anton Khudobin

Jake Oettinger

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 and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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