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Montgomery wants to see better start from Stars against Red Wings

Dallas has allowed an opposing goal on its first shot faced in both games to start the season

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Dallas Stars (0-2-0) at Detroit Red Wings (1-0-0)

Tonight, 6 p.m. CT

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

The skinny

Video: Stars can't finish on key chances against Blues

Detroit is a special place for a lot of people involved with the Stars.

CEO Jim Lites served 11 years as COO of the Red Wings and was instrumental in helping them turning around the organization in the 1980s.

Stars general manager Jim Nill spent 19 seasons with the Red Wings as head of scouting and as an assistant GM. He helped them win four Stanley Cups

Head of scouting Joe McDonnell came from the Red Wings.

Plus, there was a long stretch when Stars fans hated Detroit fans above all others.

Now, that has slowed down since the Red Wings moved to the Eastern Conference in 2013, but you could say that makes the head-to-head matchups all the more intriguing now. This will be the team's only trip to Detroit this year, and it would be a very good time to get a win.

Dallas is off to an 0-2-0 start after a 3-2 loss in St. Louis Saturday. The Stars looked a lot better, dominating middle stretches of the game despite missing four key players to injuries. Still, they have two losses, play on a back-to-back tonight, and then visit Washington on Tuesday.

 

[GAME DAY GUIDE: How to watch, live stream Stars vs. Red Wings]

 

The Stars on Saturday looked like they were going to go up 3-1 on an Esa Lindell power play goal early in the third period. However, the Blues challenged for offside on the entry into the zone, and replay overturned the goal.

St. Louis scored 2:04 later, and then went on to win the game on a fluky deflection goal.

But as much as the team could have cursed its luck, coach Jim Montgomery said they didn't handle the adversity of the overturned goal well. Instead of getting motivated, the Stars went flat. In the meantime, the Blues fed off the energy of the building and turned the game around.

That's important to remember if the team faces similar adversity tonight. If the Stars get down early _ and they have allowed a goal on the first shot in the two previous games -- then the pressure ramps up and the specter of an 0-3-0 start will loom. That's why it's important to get off to a fast start and set the tone that they are in charge.

It was a problem last season and continues to be this year.

Following the Detroit theme, forward Joel L'Esperance grew up in nearby Brighton, Mich. and should have a massive following at the game. L'Esperance was called up Saturday and could be a healthy scratch, but he also could jump into the lineup and play in front of his hometown crowd. It could be a great side story to an important game.

Dallas played in St. Louis and Detroit played in Nashville (a 5-3 victory by the Red Wings), so neither had a morning skate Sunday, and both should be battling the same travel woes. The Stars will play Anton Khudobin in net, while the Red Wings are expected to go with Jimmy Howard for the second night in a row. Howard stopped 39 shots against the Predators.

 

What to watch

Video: Bishop on tough loss to open road trip against Blues

The Stars last season had great goaltending, and they might need more of the same this season.

The Stars ranked second in goals against average at 2.44 and second in save percentage at .923. That helped them stay in just about every game.

While Dallas is hoping to increase its scoring output from 28th in the league (2.55 goals per game), it very much wants to maintain strong defensive play and great goaltending.

In the first two games, Ben Bishop was not on top of his game, allowing a few goals he would like to have back, including goals on the first shot of each game. If you want to dissect the team's performance, you probably have to start there. Had Bishop been on his game, the Stars might have won one or both games.

Enter Anton Khudobin.

The 33-year-old journeyman was the unsung hero of the Stars last season. He played in 41 games, had a 16-17-5 record, a 2.57 GAA, and .923 save percentage. Despite being a backup, Khudobin ranked eighth overall in save percentage and 15th overall in goals against.

On Sunday, he gets the chance to play the role of stopper. Dallas needs a win, and Khudobin can be the backbone that gives them the base to work from.

Khudobin stopped 21 of 23 shots in his only preseason performance, and appears ready for his role this season. He has a laid back sense of calm mixed with an incredible understanding of how to be prepared, and that means he handles the job of backup very well.

As Sunday will show, it can be a very important job.

The Stars have been sorting through injuries and are missing Corey Perry, Jason Dickinson, Blake Comeau and Roman Polak. Nick Caamano, Rhett Gardner and Taylor Fedun stepped in Saturday against the Blues, and Joel L'Esperance and Joel Hanley were called up as support. This might be a good game to get both L'Esperance and Hanley in.

We'll see.

Also worth watching will be how Jim Montgomery deploys his lines. He has juggled quite a bit, looking for both chemistry and balance in the top six. Pretty much any combination is possible, although it sure looks like Denis Gurianov has earned a spot there right now. He had three shots on goal Saturday and helped create a few scoring chances.

"I thought that was his best game," Montgomery said. "He created, he drove pucks wide, he was hard on pucks, he went through bodies, he made things happen when he was out there."

 

By the numbers

Video: DAL@STL: Heiskanen scores from along the goal line

24:36

That's the time on ice for Miro Heiskanen in the first two games, tops on the Stars. Heiskanen averaged 23:07 as a rookie last season.

 

756

That's the amount of games that Trevor Daley played with the Stars, fourth most among defensemen in franchise history. He ranks eighth in defensemen points at 231. Daley signed with the Red Wings as a free agent in 2017.

 

10

John Klingberg has scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in nine career games against the Red Wings. He is plus-4 in that span. Defense partner Esa Lindell has five points (one goal, four assists) in six career games against Detroit. He is plus-5.

 

He said it

Video: Heiskanen continues to impress with goal vs. Blues

"I thought when we lost momentum, he was the only one who was still playing assertively. ... You can't say the only one, but he's the one you noticed most."

-- Stars coach Jim Montgomery on how Miro Heiskanen was the Stars' best player Saturday in a 3-2 loss at St. Louis

 

Stars projected lineup

The Stars did not hold morning skate on Sunday.

Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Tyler Seguin

Joe Pavelski - Roope Hintz - Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark - Justin Dowling - Denis Gurianov

Andrew Cogliano - Rhett Gardner - Nick Caamano

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen - Andrej Sekera

Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin

Ben Bishop

Scratched: C Joel L'Esperance, D Joel Hanley

Injured: LW Blake Comeau (lower body) is out; C Jason Dickisnon (upper body) is out; D Roman Polak (sternum) is out; RW Corey Perry (foot) is out; D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches) is out; C Martin Hanzal (back) is out

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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