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Stars sticking with same lineup to cap three-game set at Panthers

Aside from Oettinger getting the start in net, Bowness will use what worked Wednesday as Dallas tries to gain ground

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (6-4-4, 16 points) at Panthers (12-4-2, 26 points)

Tonight, 6 p.m. CT

BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.

TV: FOX Sports Southwest PLUS

Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM

 

Rick Bowness stressed Wednesday morning that his team would have to manage the restructured schedule that places 43 games in 76 days and said the coaching staff would be wary of all manner of ways of keeping players fresh and healthy.

On Thursday morning, he did add one addendum: "Where we are in the standings and having to catch up, we need to play the best lineup we can that gives us the best chance to win."

The Stars will go with the same lineup that played Wednesday and won 3-0, other than using Jake Oettinger in goal in place of Anton Khudobin. The Stars have some options at forward to use as "fresh legs" in Joel L'Esperance and Tanner Kero. They could even sub in Joel Hanley on defense if they wanted, but Bowness said they decided not to.

To be fair, the team had an eight-day break because of the Texas weather and added in fresh legs Wednesday in the form of Nick Caamano, Justin Dowling and Rhett Gardner, so it's really not an issue. But it is interesting to note that as much as the team needs to manage this grueling schedule, they also need to make up some ground on teams ahead of them in the Central Division.

Florida is 12-4-2, while the Stars are 6-4-4. Heck, just catching 10-6-4 Chicago for the fourth and final playoff spot could be a chore. And that's something that Bowness and his coaching staff will keep in mind.

Video: Bowness: Oettinger in net, Hintz out against Panthers

"Florida is in a very comfortable position in terms of standings … we're not. We're chasing them, we're chasing six teams ahead of us," Bowness said of the possible difference in strategy when the two teams play three games in four nights against one another.

"If we had the luxury where we could afford to keep guys moving in and out, that would be a different discussion. Where we are, we have to put the best lineup we can to win tonight. Tomorrow is a day off, everyone contributed late night, we did manage the ice time pretty well last night. But again, where we are in the standings and having to catch up, we need to play the best lineup we can that gives us the best chance to win, and that's the same lineup we had last night."

Roope Hintz (lower body) and Alexander Radulov (lower body) continue to be out, and the team still is missing Tyler Seguin, who hopes to return in April after offseason hip surgery. So that creates challenges before you pile on the fact the Stars have to make up eight postponed games.

Bowness said Wednesday the team will manage energy, and he said he felt that worked well in the 3-0 win.

Knowing the two teams were playing the next day, Bowness stressed short shifts, especially in the third period, and talked about players really focusing on details of the game.

"We tried to manage last night with ice time and rolling the four lines, and we'll do the same thing tonight," he said. "We talked especially in the third period about short shifts, and that will continue tonight. One long shift tonight by any player is going to affect you for the next couple of shifts. You're not going to come to the bench and recover in a minute, so it's very important that we win faceoffs so we can control play and we keep our shifts short."

 

Bowness not concerned with shots on goal

The Stars in two games against the Panthers have allowed 52 and 43 shots on goal. That's not surprising for a Florida team that leads the NHL in shots on goal per game at 34.1, but it is surprising for a Dallas team that has typically found a way to keep shots against down.

Bowness said that shot counters in the league vary from building to building and he doesn't really concern himself with that stat.

"Sometimes those things are a little misleading, and to me it was a little misleading," Bowness said. "The chances we gave up are more important, and we cut down on them last night, so the shot clock is what it is. If the chances against come down, we're happy. We can't control what a statistician decides."

Natural Stat Trick had Florida with a 20-12 advantage in scoring chances on Monday, and had the same 20-12 edge for the Panthers on Wednesday. Those numbers can also be misleading, but the fact is Florida has had the better of play in these two games.

One area where the Stars improved from Monday to Wednesday was faceoffs. The Stars on Monday won 44 percent of the draws and that had them chasing for much of the night. On Wednesday, they won 51 percent and felt they were more in control.

Video: Khudobin's 43 saves lead Stars to shutout victory

One of the keys was the play of Radek Faksa, who won 14-of-21 faceoffs Wednesday. Bowness clearly leaned on his best checking center, playing him 18:43 on Wednesday.

"We haven't been happy with our faceoffs, particularly on the penalty kill, so you just watch the first couple and it doesn't take you long to figure out he's feeling it tonight," Bowness said. "So you try to get him out there as much as you can, and he had a good night."

Bowness added that Faksa was having a good night anyway. The veteran center stepped up with Roope Hintz out, and Bowness said that a lot of times numbers follow intensity.

"His overall game was much better last night, and those go hand in hand," Bowness said of Faksa's faceoff success. "He was more involved physically right off the bat. His overall game, he was harder to play against, which is when he's at his best, and that carries over to the faceoff circle."

It also carries over to things like shots on goal. In its six wins this year, Dallas has allowed 34, 17, 21, 23, 26 and 43 shots on goal against. So getting the shots on goal against down, as well as the scoring chances, seems like it could help.

 

Rookie gets nod in net

Khudobin stopped 83 of 85 shots on goal in his past two outings against Florida, so Oettinger will get the start in goal tonight.

"He gets a night off," Bowness said of Khudobin. "That's too tough for him, so Jake will play. Jake's been playing really well and in theses stretches where it's four in six and back to back, Jake is going to play."

Oettinger, 22, is having a great rookie season so far. He is 2-0-3 with a 2.31 and a .910 save percentage.

 

By the numbers
18

Joe Pavelski had two assists on Wednesday and now has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 19 career games against the Panthers. Pavelski leads the Stars with 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 14 games this season.

 

100

Stars forward Denis Gurianov played in his 100th career NHL game Wednesday. He has 25 goals and 19 assists for 44 career points.

 

3

Stars forward Jason Dickinson drew three penalties from the Panthers Wednesday, in addition to a delayed penalty that was not officially registered because John Klingberg scored while the ref's hand was in the air.

 

He said it

"The second unit, they were the best unit. They took it down to Faksy by the net and gave it to Esa, and he had two great chances. Next power play, they go out and scored a goal. They're not as predictable … and that first unit, they just have to pick up the intensity and pick up the puck movement." -- Bowness on how the first power-play unit struggled to move the puck quickly Wednesday and that the second unit with Faksa and Esa Lindell were much better

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, and listen to his podcast.

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