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Can 'big three' reunion against Capitals help Stars avoid lost road trip?

Dallas continues to tweak its lineup with the hope of halting an early three-game winless skid in Washington

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (0-3-0) at Capitals (2-0-1)

6 p.m., Capital One Arena

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

WASHINGTON -- Maybe the greatest anomaly in recent Stars' history is their dominance over the Washington Capitals. Dallas is 12-1-3 in its past 16 meetings with Washington, and this comes during a stretch when the Capitals were very good and the Stars were not so much.

Still, Dallas finds a way to win these games.

That could be important, as the Stars very much need a win after starting the season 0-3-0 and would love to end this three-game road trip in the victory column.

"We need to win, so this is a big game for us," said defenseman John Klingberg. "It's been a tough start, so there's a little bit of pressure, but it's also the fourth game. We have a bunch of hockey left to play."

The Stars are trying to walk the line between urgency and patience. They know that a four-game losing streak to start would be bad, but they also know they have done some good things in the first three games and have lost by one goal in each.

Coach Jim Montgomery continues to scramble his lines and has a more traditional look to start this game. However, he has swapped a bunch of players on the power play, so he definitely still wants to tweak here and there.

Bottom line, though, he needs his best players to be the best players in the matchup with a very talented Capitals team, which will be getting Evgeny Kuznetsov back from a three-game suspension for "inappropriate conduct" in the off-season.

Video: Stars roll into Washington seeking first win

Montgomery has reassembled the top line of Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Alexander Radulov, and could get some strong results. In 14 career games against the Capitals, Benn has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) and is plus-14, Radulov has eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven career games against Washington, and Seguin has 16 points (11 goals, five assists) in 23 career games.

In 18 career games against Dallas, Washington's Alex Ovechkin has 14 points (nine goals, five assists) and is minus-5. Meanwhile, goalie Braden Holtby is 2-4-1 with a 4.02 GAA and .870 save percentage.

All of that is fun to discuss, but the key for the Stars is finding a way to win.

"You lose three games to start off the year and it's really noticeable," Montgomery said. "We did it last year in December, and it wasn't as noticeable."

Montgomery said the team has to be better in not taking penalties (they put the Red Wings on the power play eight times Sunday) and also just in making good decisions at key times in a game.

"I think it comes down to game management," Montgomery said.

"We're taking too many penalties and we're not managing the game well in big moments right now. We've had points where we have complete momentum and we take it away from ourselves, so we just have to be smarter in those areas."

 

What to watch

Video: Klingberg "it's a big game for us"

The Stars are changing up their power-play units, looking for balance and chemistry.

Jim Montgomery and Todd Nelson have decided to take the three Finnish players from the second unit (Roope Hintz, Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell) and mix them with Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin. That will create a top unit that can move the puck and hopefully have a net-front presence in Pavelski.

The second unit will be Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg with Radek Faksa and Justin Dowling. Benn, Radulov and Klingberg have history together, Faksa offers a net-front presence, and Dowling is good at retrieving pucks.

We'll see if that makes a difference.

Of course, for it to be tested, the Stars need to get on the power play more than just twice a game. Dallas has six power play opportunities on the season, among the fewest in the NHL. Last season, they ranked 29th in drawing power plays, getting 214 in 82 games.

 

Gurianov scratched; Perry 'closer' to season debut

Video: Faksa relishes opportunity to face the league's best

Denis Gurianov will get a healthy scratch in this one, and Joel L'Esperance will jump into the lineup. Gurianov played in all of the first three games this season, but was benched after he failed to get a clean clear out of his own zone against Detroit. He finished that game with 7:00 in time on ice.

"It's just an opportunity for him to watch the game," Montgomery said. "Sometimes you're putting so much pressure on yourself to do the right thing that you kind of paralyze yourself. So just to get up there and watch the game from above and be like, `This game is a lot easier than I'm making it out to be right now.' For him to just go out there and play."

L'Esperance played 18 games for the Stars last season, and tallied two goals. He led the Texas Stars in goal scoring with 30 in 54 games last season.

Corey Perry, who missed all of training camp with a fractured bone in his foot, has been traveling with the team on this road trip and skated Sunday in Detroit and Tuesday in Washington.

"Perry is closer, but we've got to wait until we get confirmation from doctors when we get home," Montgomery said. "He's on the ice, he's moving around, he feels a lot better, so that's exciting."

Montgomery said Perry will be re-evaluated by doctors at the Stars' home game.

 

By the numbers
659

That's the amount of career regular season goals for Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin. He ranks 13th. Wayne Gretzky has the NHL record with 894.

 

56

That's the amount of hooking penalties taken by the Capitals last season, most in the NHL. Washington put the opposition on the power play 261 times last year, fifth most in the NHL.

 

338

That's the amount of shots on goal that Alexander Ovechkin took last season, ranking third in the NHL. Tyler Seguin was fourth at 334. Since Seguin joined the Stars in 2013, Ovechkin leads the NHL in shots on goal (2185) and Seguin is second (1822).

 

He said it

"Now it's time for him to play and I just want him to enjoy being back out there and being with the team. He obviously is an elite player in the league. He needs to get back playing and enjoying the game of hockey and moving forward with his life."

-- Capitals coach Todd Reirden on Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is returning from a three-game suspension for inappropriate conduct

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Joel L'Esperance

Nick Caamano - Rhett Gardner - Justin Dowling

Esa Lindell - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: RW Denis Gurianov, D Joel Hanley.

Injured: LW Blake Comeau (lower body), C Jason Dickisnon (upper body), D Roman Polak (sternum), RW Corey Perry (foot), D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back).

 

Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tim Wilson

Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Richard Panik

Brendan Leipsic - Chandler Stephenson - Garnet Hathaway

Jonas Siegenthaler - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen

Martin Fehervary - Tyler Lewington

Braden Holtby

Ilya Samsanov

Scratched: D Radko Gudas, C Nic Dowd

Injured: D Michael Kempny (hamstring)

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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