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'This is their time': Jets' Maurice praises Stars for resurgence

Dallas has been on a roll, winning four straight since falling to Winnipeg in overtime on Nov. 10

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (12-8-2) vs. Jets (13-8-1)

7:30 p.m., American Airlines Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

DALLAS -- Two of the hotter teams in the Western Conference battle tonight with some early-season positioning on the line.

The Stars are on an 11-1-1 roll, while Winnipeg is 7-1-1 in its past nine games.

Included for both was a pretty big meeting between in Winnipeg Nov. 10. The Jets rallied from a 2-1 deficit and won in overtime, prompting Stars coach Jim Montgomery to criticize his top scorers Jamie Ben and Tyler Seguin, and then switch his lineup around.

 

[GAME DAY GUIDE: Everything you need to know for Stars vs. Jets]

 

Benn and Seguin have since taken off and the team has won four in a row by a combined score of 18-8, so getting back together on the same ice should be motivational for some key players on the Stars.

"They're the team that kind of made the call out happen, and we've taken some big steps since then," said Seguin.

Montgomery said he's been impressed with the improved defense of the Jets, who rank 12th in the league in goals against average at 2.91 goals per game. While Jets coach Paul Maurice said he believes the Stars are back to being the team they should be.

Video: WPG@DAL: Montgomery previews divisional tilt at home

"Dallas is primed," Maurice said. "We talked about St. Louis [last season] and how they were primed. The Stars are about four years older per man than our group right now. This is their time."

Maurice said he believes the fact the Stars are still playing well with John Klingberg injured and out of the lineup is a testament to their defensive depth and their style of play.

"They have a real active backend and don't give much up. That would be the biggest difference and transition of this team over the last five years," Maurice said. "Their backend used to be all over the ice and were hard to handle, but you were always in a game with them because you were going to generate chances. Joel Armia alone had 12 goals against Dallas. Now, most of that has gone away."

Ironically, the same thing has happened to the Jets. Once a high-flying circus show of a hockey team, Winnipeg ranks 25th in goals for at 2.68 per game. That said, they are much better defensively and now are the least penalized team in the league with 47 times shorthanded.

"We feel the Jets are a significantly different team," Montgomery said. "They play five together really well in all three zones. The neutral zone is really hard to penetrate against them. And we think in the D-zone, that they're taking away time and space and are harder on you.

"That's why when you look at the numbers and they're not giving up a lot of goals."

 

What to watch

This should be a really fun goalie battle.

Ben Bishop is celebrating his 33rd birthday today. He ranks fourth in goals against average at 2.20 and sixth in save percentage at .928.

Connor Hellebuyck is 28. He ranks sixth in goals against average at 2.35 and fourth in save percentage at .930.

Tweet from @DallasStars: A big HBD to Big Ben! 🎂 🥳#GoStars pic.twitter.com/7Hllj22fco

Bishop was born in Denver and raised in St. Louis. Hellebuyck is from Commerce, Michigan. Both played a year of junior hockey in Texas - Bishop with the Texas Tornado and Hellebuyck with the Odessa Jackalopes. Both have played for Team USA.

Hellebuyck is 8-4-1 in his career against the Stars with a 2.38 GAA and .924 save percentage. Bishop is 7-4-1 in his career against the Jets with a 2.30 GAA and .924 save percentage.

Lots to watch there. It should be fun.

 

Janmark returns to Stars' lineup

Since both teams are rolling, lineups have been pretty consistent.

Mattias Janmark returns after missing four games with a lower-body injury. He will take the place of Nick Caamano on a line with Jason Dickinson and Corey Perry. Caamano goes back to the AHL.

Video: WPG@DAL: Janmark looks to provide spark in return

Otherwise, the Stars will look much the same as they did against Vancouver Tuesday.

Justin Dowling has looked good centering Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, while Joe Pavelski's move to center has produced strong chemistry with Denis Gurianov and Alexander Radulov.

 

By the numbers
Plus-19

Winnipeg has been shorthanded the fewest times in the NHL (47) and has had 66 power-play opportunities. That works out to plus-19 on special teams differential. Dallas has been shorthanded 81 times (fourth most in the NHL), has drawn 64 power plays (ranking 25th) and is minus-17 on special teams differential.

 

16

That's the amount of goals Winnipeg winger Patrik Laine has scored against the Stars in just 14 career games. Laine scored against Dallas Nov. 10.

 

10-1-1

Winnipeg has been outscored 59-64 on the season, but has a 13-8-1 record. That's because the Jets are 10-1-1 in one-goal games. Included in that record is an overtime win against the Stars, who are 5-4-2 in one-goal games.

 

He said it

"It's felt great. I think we're doing a lot of things together out there and finding different ways to win games and ultimately doing a good job of keeping the puck out of our net. I think both our goaltenders have been superb for us here, and our team game is really taking strides in the right direction. I think we are a confident bunch when we're playing this way."

-- Stars defenseman Taylor Fedun on how the team is feeling during this 11-1-1 run.

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Justin Dowling - Tyler Seguin

Denis Gurianov - Joe Pavelski - Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Esa Lindell - Taylor Fedun

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - Roman Polak

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: D Joel Hanley

Injured: C Roope Hintz (lower body), D John Klingberg (lower body), 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, and listen to his podcast.

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