Stars (18-13-2, 38 points) vs. Panthers (24-7-5, 53 points)
6 p.m. CT, FLA Live Arena
TV: Bally Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM
Joe Pavelski is having one of the best statistical seasons of his career.
Pavelski has 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points in 33 games. Because of that, he's been selected to participate in the 2022 All-Star Game in Las Vegas Feb. 5.
"I've been to three of them and I've enjoyed each and every one," he said. "It's a fun weekend. It's the whole experience sharing it with friends and family and going there and enjoying your time."
Pavelski, 37, said that having his 11-year-old son Nate along for these experiences has been great.
"Nate has been around for the first few, but he has a different understanding," Pavelski said. "He has favorite players and he's excited as much as anyone."
Video: 'I've enjoyed each and every [All-Star Game]'
Pavelski is coming off a five-point game (two goals, three assists) against Seattle on Wednesday and is helping linemates Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson also post career-best numbers. The trio is one of the best lines in hockey right now.
"It's his ability to sniff out loose pucks, his ability to get out into the open," Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "His anticipation of where that puck is going. Great poise around the net. Goal scorers know where to put the puck. You can put other guys in those situations and they're not going to have the natural instinct in order to put the puck past the goalie."
In the four games since returning from a 17-day COVID hiatus, Pavelski has three goals and five assists, Robertson has three goals and four assists and Hintz has two goals and two assists.
"We've been on a good run," Pavelski said. "We expect to produce every night. We expect to play hard. That's been the biggest thing, haven't had to say a whole lot. The compete has been there from all three of us and guys are making plays and feeding off each other."
That being said, the team needs to help out the top line, Bowness said, especially on the road.
"They know they're going to get the opposition's best defensive pairing and best defensive line when they can get the right matchups," Bowness said. "That's going to happen to them this weekend. They'll just have to keep playing through it. It's important that they continue to score, but what's just as important is we've got to get someone else helping them out here. It can't be that line every night scoring all the goals."
Video: Bowness on lineup for game against Panthers
What to watch
Jacob Peterson is getting a great opportunity with both Denis Gurianov and Alexander Radulov in COVID protocol. The 22-year-old forward has five goals and two assists in 26 games after coming over from Sweden.
"I'm feeling more comfortable out there, both physically and mentally," Peterson said of his promotion to the second line. "I know what I've got to work on, and I'm getting better every day."
Peterson played a season high 17:27 and had three shots on goal while skating on a line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
"We created a lot of scoring chances and both of the guys helped me a lot," he said. "It's easy to play with those guys, so it felt great, and we have something to build on."
Video: Peterson on skating with Benn and Seguin
Bowness said this is a great chance for Peterson to make a statement.
"It doesn't get any better than this opportunity," Bowness said. "He's playing some power play and he's playing with two really good players. It's a learning curve for him, but it doesn't get any better than the experience he's getting right now."
Defenseman Andrej Sekera is the latest Stars player to test positive, and joins Gurianov, Radulov and goalie Braden Holtby. Joel Hanley will step in on defense for Sekera. He last played Dec. 17.
Jake Oettinger will be in goal.
Assistant coach John Stevens also is in the protocol, so Todd Nelson will run the defense.
Here is the expected lineup:
Florida has the best home record in the NHL at 19-3-0. Dallas is tied for the second fewest road wins at 4-10-1.
Florida ranks first in the NHL in average shots on goal at 36.8 per game.
Benn has 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) in 25 career games against the Panthers, including a goal and an assist in one game this season.
He said it
"Give him credit for playing 900 games. One thing about Jamie, I've always said this, his heart is in the right place. He tries and competes and does his best every shift, every game." -- Bowness on Benn playing in his 900th career regular season game tonight
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.