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Stars may be in for chess match against Islanders

Whether it's goaltending or their respective systems, Dallas and New York have both been tough to score on

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (16-11-3) vs. Islanders (19-6-2)

8 p.m., American Airlines Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

DALLAS -- The Stars and Islanders have been two of the best defensive teams in hockey for the past two seasons.

Whether that's goalies or systems or whatever, it's tough to score against either team.

Since the start of last season, the Islanders have the lowest goals against average at 2.35 per game, and Dallas is second at 2.44. That means the Stars will have to be ready for a team that can dictate how the game is played.

"A team that is predictable in the fact that they're hard to play against, they don't give up much, they don't take a lot of penalties, they don't beat themselves, and they're very good at possessing pucks in the offensive zone and creating high-danger scoring chances," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "I think we're similar stylistically, I think we're different with the puck."

Video: NYI@DAL: Montgomery previews matchup with Islanders

The Stars produce 30.8 shots a game, 22nd-best in the NHL. The Islanders are dead last in shot production at 28.1. 

It could be a chess match of a game.

"I think Dallas is playing very well," said Islanders coach Barry Trotz. "There's a similar trend in all of the teams we're going to see with Dallas, Florida, and Tampa Bay. They've got high-end forwards and a very active defense. The teams that we play can turn nothing into something very quickly. We have to make sure that we're managing pucks, being on the right side of people, and playing smart hockey."

The Stars are coming off a big 3-2 OT win against Winnipeg Thursday, and are hoping to continue that momentum. They will have to do it with an 8 p.m. start, an hour later than normal because the Mavericks played Saturday afternoon and the arena had to be changed over.

 

Radulov returns to lineup after healthy scratch

Alexander Radulov is back in the lineup after a healthy scratch. The last time that happened, Radulov tallied a hat trick in response. We'll see if he's motivated in a similar manner.

Montgomery said he talked to Radulov before scratching him, but hasn't spoken to him about returning.

"I treated it the same way," Montgomery said. "I didn't talk to him last year and I didn't talk to him this year about coming back. Obviously, when you take a guy out of the lineup, as a coach, you have to talk to him. Then, when you talk to him about why they're not in the lineup, they know what they need to do to make sure you're in the lineup."

Video: VGK@DAL: Radulov deflects the puck for a PPG

 

Bishop to get start in net

Ben Bishop will be back in net for the Stars. He is 10-6-2 on the year with a 2.19 GAA and .929 save percentage. In his career against the Islanders, Bishop is 8-4-1 with a 2.55 GAA and .906 save percentage.

The return of Radulov means the top six will change. Tyler Seguin moves back to center, and Mattias Janmark joins Jamie Benn as wingers on the top line. The second line will be Roope Hintz with Radulov and Joe Pavelski. Justin Dowling goes from top line center to healthy scratch.

"I liked some of our lines last game, but I don't think we were at the level where we were playing our best," Montgomery said. "We were giving up too much defensively. We created more offensively, which was nice to see, but it was at the expense of giving up a lot. We relied a little too much on Bish to our liking."

The D-pairs also were shuffled from last game, as John Klingerg is back with Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen is with Jamie Oleksiak and Andrej Sekera is with Roman Polak.

Esa Lindell said he's fine with whatever role or side he plays on.

"It doesn't matter, really," Lindell said. "I think we're all ready for anything, so we just get out there and go."

Montgomery said making changes on defense is easier.

"D are a lot less maintenance than forwards, they are," Montgomery said. "D-men are simple, they know what their task is, they know what their role is."

Video: NYI@DAL: Sekera on Stars' successful penalty kill

 

By the numbers
4-7-0

That's the Stars' record against Eastern Conference teams this year. Much of their early season woes came against the East. Dallas is 3-1-0 in its past four games against the Islanders.

 

18

The Stars have allowed 18 goals in the first period, second fewest in the NHL this season. The Islanders rank fifth at 21 goals against.

 

10-1-2

The Islanders are 10-1-2 in one-goal games this season. The Stars are 7-4-3.

 

He said it

"I think we showed each other how we have to play. The game in Winnipeg was polar opposite, just kind of looked like we were waiting for the other guy to do it - kind of taking the easy way out. And tonight, it was just a hard fought game. Physical, special teams were good. Little disappointing, we gave them a point at the end but that's the way it goes at the end of the day. We got the extra point and we'll take it."

-- Stars forward Blake Comeau on how the Stars responded with an emotional game Thursday and beat the Winnipeg Jets, 3-2, in overtime.

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Mattias Janmark

Joe Pavelski - Roope Hintz - Alexander Radulov

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Denis Gurianov - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen - Jamie Oleksiak

Andrej Sekera - Roman Polak

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: D Taylor Fedun, C Justin Dowling

Injured: D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back)

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the New York Islanders as they continue the homestand tonight at American Airlines Center. Get your tickets now!

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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