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Stars face tough challenge against Habs on second half of back-to-back

Coming off a game Friday in Colorado and an early morning arrival back home, Dallas' energy will be tested by Montreal

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (6-8-1) vs. Canadiens (7-4-2)

6 p.m., American Airlines Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

DALLAS -- The NHL schedule-maker hands you challenges during your season, and that's just the way it goes.

The Stars will have one of those challenges tonight.

Dallas played in Colorado Friday, meaning they started an hour behind or 8 p.m. Central time. It also means they had a long drive to the airport and had to de-ice before taking off. That meant the players walked off the plane at 2:45 a.m. Dallas time, and now have a game that starts an hour early Saturday to accommodate Canadian television.

Basically, it's one of the tightest turnarounds the NHL will allow.

Video: MTL@DAL: Comeau back in lineup to face Canadiens

That said, the Stars are hoping to get out and show they can handle the challenge.

"We have to have a good start again," said defenseman John Klingberg. "The first five minutes are going to be important in every period. We've been talking about it, so let's take the momentum and energy right away in the game."

The Stars last season had an interesting lab study on what energy means to their game. They had a pair of two-day breaks in the Nashville series and seemed to be able to overwhelm the Predators with energy. They had no two-day breaks in the St. Louis series, and seemed to wear down by the end.

This is a team that seems to need high energy to play well, so that should be something that will be tested Saturday.

 

What to watch

As much as we've been watching the forwards for alignment and style of play, this might be a night to keep an eye on the defensemen.

Esa Lindell played 28:05 Friday in a 2-1 win over Colorado, He ate up 7:20 of the team's 8:30 shorthanded minutes, had three shots on goal and blocked four shots. Miro Heiskanen played 27:20. He had eight blocked shots and played 2:28 on the power play and 6:11 shorthanded. John Klingberg played 23:51 and had eight shot attempts.

That trio is clearly the key to the Stars' blueline, but it will be interesting to see if they can be pushed to those numbers on the second night of a back-to-back. Taylor Fedun and Joel Hanley have been solid on the third pairing and each played about 12 minutes Friday, so they could get stretched a little more. Jamie Oleksiak played 15:27, including only 33 seconds shorthanded, so he also could be used more.

 

Lineup updates

Ben Bishop is in goal. He was pulled Tuesday against Minnesota and didn't play Friday, but he is 12-4-4 in his career against Montreal with a 1.79 goals against average and .935 save percentage.

Blake Comeau is expected to return from a knee injury and play for the first time since he was hurt in the season opener. Comeau was hit in the face with a puck and fell awkwardly, twisting his knee. He has been working out hard and rehabbing hard in order to get back into the game.

Tweet from @DallasStars: NEWS: Stars activate forward Blake Comeau from injured reserve (lower body) and have reassigned forward Nick Caamano to the @TexasStars. #GoStars https://t.co/aqKJuH6Yhm

"Maybe It'll take me a shift or two just to get into some battles and realize I'm fine and not have to worry about it," Comeau said when asked what might be the most difficult part of coming back. "I'm sure there are going to be some things here and there that I have to deal with, but that's just the way it is. As long as my legs feel in game shape, and I don't have to think about it, I should be able to pick up right away."

Nick Caamano has been returned to the AHL, so the guess is Comeau will return to a line with Radek Faksa and Andrew Cogliano. That was one of Dallas' most consistent lines last season.

 

By the numbers
4-1-2

That's Montreal's road record this season. The Canadiens are coming off a 5-4 OT win at Vegas on Thursday and won in Arizona 4-1 on Wednesday.

 

3.77

Montreal ranks third in the NHL in goal scoring at 3.77 per game and ranks sixth in shots on goal at 34.1 per game. Dallas ranks ninth in goals against at 2.60 and third in shots against at 29.1 per game.

 

19-11

Montreal has outscored opponents 19-11 in third periods this season. Dallas has been outscored 14-19 in third periods.

 

He said it

"He just took off last year. He just seems to get better. It's amazing to see how much power and speed he comes down with and how quick his shot is coming off as well. He was very close (to getting a third goal). I was sitting on the bench in the third and he shot at the knob on the goalie there. That was going in. I don't think anyone expected he was going to shoot there, but it's a quick shot and he uses it well."

-- Klingberg on teammate Roope Hintz, who leads the team with nine goals this season

 

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 - Blake Comeau

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Joel Hanley - Taylor Fedun

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: D Justin Dowling

Injuries: D Andrej Sekera (overall soreness), 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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