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Pushing distractions aside, Stars focused on prolonging hot streak

Dallas enters its challenging matchup against the Golden Knights with wins in three straight games

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (18-11-3) vs. Golden Knights (16-13-5)

7 p.m., American Airlines Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest; ESPN+

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

DALLAS -- The Stars have dealt with a lot of distractions this week, but they have been able to draw focus by playing games.

This should be another challenging one.

Dallas has won three in a row after an 0-3-1 slump and now sits 18-11-3 (39 points) and in the first wild-card playoff spot. Vegas is in the second wild-card playoff spot at 16-13-5 and is coming off a 4-2 loss in St. Louis Thursday night.

The Stars beat the Golden Knights, 4-2, on Nov. 25 but know that Vegas has been a much better team since then (5-2-1).

Video: VGK@DAL: Bowness on how Stars match up with Vegas

"We hope we play as well tonight as we did last game," said Stars interim coach Rick Bowness. "The first and third periods, we were very solid. The second period, we took four penalties. Now, we were able to kill all of those off, but we certainly don't want to do that against them, because they've got a great power play. But if we can play against them for 60 minutes like we did in the first and the third where we didn't give up much and we put a lot of pressure on them in their zone, well, that's how we want to play."

Dallas outshot the Golden Knights 16-6 in the first period and took a 2-0 lead. It was outshot 13-2 in the second period, and then survived a nice third period where Vegas cut the deficit to 3-2, but Alexander Radulov scored his second power-play goal of the game in the third. That allowed the Stars to tie the franchise record for consecutive wins at seven.

That game started a run where the power play went 7-for-18 over a seven-game span. However, with the coaching changes Tuesday, they are trying new things with the man advantage, so that will be definitely something to watch.

The Golden Knights rank ninth on the power play at 21.9 percent and ninth on the penalty kill at 83.6 percent. Dallas ranks 21st on the power play at 17.2 percent and fifth on the penalty kill at 85.0 percent. The Stars are much better at home on the power play, going 21.7 percent (14th). They are 30th on the road at 9.1 percent.

 

What to watch

Ben Bishop is a really good goalie.

That seems pretty obvious with him finishing as the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy last season, but every time you look at his numbers, you're astounded.

He will start his fourth consecutive game Friday, the longest stretch for any Stars goalie this season. He is 9-1-1 in his past 12 appearance with a 1.66 GAA and .948 save percentage. In his career against Vegas, he is only 2-3-0, but he has done that with a 1.94 GAA and .943 save percentage. In home games this season, Bishop is 9-3-1 with a 1.65 GAA and .947 save percentage.

That is some high level stuff.

Bishop is coming off his first shutout of the season, so he will definitely be worth watching in this one.

Vegas played in St. Louis Thursday and Marc-Andre Fleury had that game, so the guess is they will go with Malcolm Subban in net Friday, but we'll have to wait and see on that.

Video: NJD@DAL: Bishop earns first shutout of the season

 

Bowness prefers balance with forward lines

No changes to the lineup.

Bowness reiterated this week that he likes balance with his forward lines, and he showed that in his first game managing the forwards on Tuesday. Jamie Benn led all forwards in time on ice with 17:42, while Andrew Cogliano played the least minutes at 13:06.

"We've got four good lines," Bowness said. "I think St. Louis and Boston, those top teams, they roll four lines, and we're going to do the same as much as we can. For the most part, we're going to see what we saw last game, 13 to 18 minutes, that's what we're going to do."

Bowness said that in addition to allowing the team to be fresh, he believes balancing the minutes contributes to a team feeling.

"A big part of being a good team is that everybody has to feel like they're contributing," he said. "If one guy is playing 22 and another is playing eight, that guy playing eight minutes doesn't feel that important. But if they're all in 13 to 18 range in terms of the forwards, then everyone knows they are a big part of the team."

Video: Pavelski on adjusting to Laxdal, continuing to work

 

By the numbers
6-0-1

That's the Stars' record against the Pacific Division, including a 4-2 win over Vegas. Dallas is 12-4-3 against the Western Conference this season. Vegas is 3-5-1 against the Central.

 

30

Radulov has 30 penalty minutes this season (15 minors), tied for most of any player in this game. Brayden McNabb has 30 for Vegas, while Ryan Reaves has 24.

 

9

In 15 career games against Dallas, former Stars winger Reilly Smith has nine points (three goals, six assists). Smith has 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 34 games this season, more than any current Stars player.

 

He said it

"I've mentioned this before, and everyone knows, if you want to win in this league on a consistent basis, you better be a good defensive team. We are. From training camp, we've been working on trying to create more offense, and we're going to continue to do that."

-- Bowness on the team being first in goals against at 2.31 goals per game and 26th in goals for at 2.59.

 
Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin

Joe Pavelski - Roope Hintz - Alexander Radulov

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Denis Gurianov - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

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 Vegas Golden Knights as they wrap up the homestand at American Airlines Center tonight at 7 p.m. 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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