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Coming off emotional win, can Stars keep rolling against Avalanche?

Khudobin to start in net for Dallas, which looks for its fifth victory in six games at Colorado

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (5-8-1) at Avalanche (8-2-2)

8 p.m., Pepsi Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest; ESPN+

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

DENVER -- There is great anticipation for tonight's game.

One, the Stars had a marvelous comeback Tuesday in beating the Minnesota Wild, 6-3, and everyone is curious to see if they can replicate the energy and aggression that was shown in the third period of that game.

Two, it's been revealed in the past couple of days that head coach Jim Montgomery has taken over the day-to-day coaching of the power play and that assistant coach Todd Nelson has moved to the press box for the first two periods of games and will coach the third period on the bench. That's a pretty significant change for the coaching staff.

And three, Colorado is off to a tremendous start at 8-2-2, and will provide a significant challenge for the Stars tonight.

So, plenty to keep you interested.

As to the first item, the Stars looked like a different team in the second half of Tuesday's game, as they pushed the puck to the net, forced defenders to make mistakes, and created their own luck.

Video: DAL@COL: Montgomery discusses importance of rest

"It's the mental attitude of getting on top of people, that's what it comes down to," Montgomery said when asked if they can duplicate that play. "It's our attitude on how we're going to start a game right from the start."

Montgomery said the decision to move Nelson to the pressbox for the first two periods was something the coaching staff decided was needed in order to see if they could do a better job coaching. He said it paid off in a big way.

"All credit to Todd Nelson," Montgomery said. "We put him upstairs to change things and give us an eye in the sky. He came down and we made some tweaks to how we were going to play in the third period, so what a great job by Todd Nelson."

Asked if that was a difficult decision or if it could be interpreted as a demotion, because the power play was struggling, Montgomery said it was a change that was made to help the team get better.

"Todd Nelson is an incredible team-first guy, and if we're going to ask the players to sacrifice, it's no different for our coaching staff," Montgomery said. "Todd Nelson, I've played with him and he's won championships as a player and a coach for a reason. You ask anyone who has played with him, and the first thing they're going to say is what a great teammate. That's what he is on the coaching staff."

As for the third point, the Avalanche have bolted out of the gate, despite missing Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen with lower body injuries. Colorado is 8-2-2 and ranks second in the NHL in scoring at 3.92 goals per game. The Avalanche also is fourth in goal differential at plus-1.08

"They're an explosive team that not only plays fast, but is probably physically the fastest team in the league," Montgomery said.

 

What to watch

Montgomery went through some details on how the team attacked in the third period, and said getting their third forward to hang high in the offensive zone while the team is attacking was a reason for Tuesday's success.

"The key thing in everything we do is that our F3 is between our two forwards forechecking and our two d-men that are behind," Montgomery said. "Because if he's there, it allows our d-men to go down walls and keep pucks alive. Same thing in the neutral zone. If you're over top speed in the middle of the ice with your F3, you're always in a good offensive and defensive position. Doesn't matter what technical structure you're calling it."

 

[GAME DAY GUIDE: Everything you need to know for Stars vs. Avalanche]

 

Montgomery said getting an F3 high in the offensive creates an environment where that player can see read the play and react better.

"It's like a quarterback. Why does the quarterback go to the shotgun? Gives you more time to see everything," Montgomery said. "Well, it's the same thing with our F3. The higher you are, the more you can see the holes."

 

Lineup updates

Anton Khudobin gets the start in goal. He came on in relief and played well in the win Tuesday. Plus, the Stars have back-to-back games, so the two goalies were going to split no matter what. Ben Bishop will be back in net Saturday when the Stars play host to the Montreal Canadiens.

Khudobin is 1-3-0 in his career against Colorado with a 3.21 GAA and .888 save percentage.

Bishop is 12-4-4 in his career against Montreal with a 1.79 GAA and .935 save percentage.

Montgomery is planning to start this game with the lines he had to end last game. Tyler Seguin will be flanked by Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov. Seguin has put up terrific numbers against the Avalanche with 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 27 career games, and 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in his past 14 games against Colorado.

 
By the numbers

 

3

Stars defenseman Taylor Fedun has three assists in five career games against Colorado. He currently leads all Stars defenseman with five assists in 11 games this season and is second on the team in plus-minus at plus-4.

 

46.2

Colorado ranks last in the NHL in faceoff success at 46.2 percent. Dallas ranks fifth at 52.7 percent.

 

28.4

That's the average amount of shots on goal the Stars get in a game, ranking 27th in the NHL. Colorado, meanwhile, allows 34.0 shots on goal against per game, also ranking 27th in the league. Something's gotta give.

 

He said it

"Those are things that you're going to discuss because you don't want anything to fester. Bish actually came and saw me. Then, him and [goalie coach Jeff Reese] will keep doing the great work they've done together since Bish has been here. We know Bish is our No. 1. We know Bish is going to do a great job for us."

-- Montgomery on a meeting he had with Bishop the day after Bishop was pulled against Minnesota

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov

Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski

Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Nick Caamano

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Joel Hanley - Taylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin

Ben Bishop

Scratched: C Justin Dowling

Injuries: D Andrej Sekera (overall soreness), LW Blake Comeau (lower body), D Roman Polak (sternum), 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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