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What to watch for as Stars look to get out of road funk at Golden Knights

Dallas begins a two-game trip with its first-ever regular season visit to Las Vegas

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

LAS VEGAS -- The Dallas Stars start a brief, two-game road trip with their first-ever regular season visit to Las Vegas on Tuesday to face the surprising Golden Knights.

Here are some things to watch as the 12-10-1 Stars try and avenge an opening-night loss at home to Vegas, and try and correct their long-standing road woes.

 

Let's get that out of the way

There is no bigger storyline associated with the Stars this season than their inability to replicate the effort and success they have at home when they're on the road.

And until it gets dealt with, in at least some form, you can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

The Stars are 0-3-1 in their last four road games and are a dreadful 3-8-1 overall away from American Airlines Center, where they are a stellar 9-2-0. Lots of opinion on why this has become so from inability to suppress opposing teams' surges, to minor lapses that may last only five or 10 minutes but which cost the team with crucial goals again (think about allowing a goal with 0.1 seconds left in the second period last week in Denver, or the ghastly shorthanded goal allowed in Tampa that sent the Stars off the deep end en route to a blowout loss).

Sometimes, it's been goaltending that just hasn't been able to deliver the crucial stop at the crucial time, or a lack of depth scoring -- although, that has been somewhat rectified in recent days.

Lots of reasons and even a few excuses, like the continued absence of Marc Methot out with a knee injury. But the time for excuses is pretty much over. We'll see Tuesday night if this team has found any answers.

For the record, Methot remains out of the lineup and the Stars will ice the same lineup that played Saturday, including Stephen Johns returning to action after missing part of Saturday's game after an awkward fall near the Dallas bench. Julius Honka remains in the lineup with Jamie Oleksiak and Remi Elie expected to be scratched.

 

And now a word about the first-place Golden Knights

Remember the disappointment when the Golden Knights came back to defeat Dallas on opening night, the first-ever game for the expansion team? Nobody loses to an expansion team, especially on home ice, right?

Ha. Ha. Guess what? Lots of teams have had that feeling of disappointment as the Knights have defied skeptics (including this one) and soared to the top of the Pacific Division standings with a 15-6-1 record.

They've done so in spite of a dizzying array of goaltenders that have had to be used, thanks to injuries to Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcom Subban and Oscar Dansk. They have scored like no one thought they could or would, and did we mention they're almost unbeatable at home, boasting a 9-1-0 record and are currently riding a five-game winning streak?

"I think you have to show them a healthier dose of respect and in saying that we have to play them much harder," Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They're in such a zone here. They can beat you with low scores, they can beat you with high scores. We've just got to find a different way to make them uncomfortable."

Look for the Stars to try and pressure the Golden Knights' defenders with a strong forecheck and to use the width of the ice to generate quality scoring chances.

 

Bish mode

Thought Ben Bishop was outstanding in the team's last road game, a 3-0 loss to Colorado in a tilt that turned on the last-second goal in the second period.

But the road has not been especially kind to Bishop in recent weeks. He is 0-4-0 in his last four road games and has allowed 18 goals over that span.

The Golden Knights will likely go with Subban, and with all due respect to the younger brother of Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban, this is a matchup the Stars should win, and frankly, need to win if they're going to have success moving forward.

Hitchcock was asked about the goaltending rotation moving forward and the sense is that Bishop has a chance to play a lot of hockey in the coming days if he can string together some quality starts.

 

Father knows best

This game is the first of two that encompass the Stars' annual fathers' (and mentors) trip with the second set for Chicago on Thursday.

Historically, the Stars are an impressive 5-1-2 when the dads are in attendance since Jim Nill took over as general manager. And one would imagine there will be a little additional adrenaline as the team takes the ice tonight, wanting to put on a good show for their guests.

Of course it cuts both ways if players try to do too much to put on a show and stray from the game plan.

"Any time you can look for a cause, or any time you can look for something like that, that you want to play for, then that's an advantage, because it's a lot of games in the season, and if you can find special situations where you can take advantage of it emotionally, then you ought to do that, because otherwise, all the games start to blend together," Hitchcock said.

Certainly, the players feel it's a bonus having the dads and mentors around.

"Not nervous at all, I think it's more adrenaline," said defenseman John Klingberg. "I think with the dads here, with the tough record we have on the road, this might be a game-changer, so I think this is a really good thing for us right now to switch it up on the road, and I think this is only going to be a positive."

 

Seguin segue?

Saturday's 6-4 win over the Flames, which included erasing multiple one-goal deficits, featured a hat-trick from Tyler Seguin. Playing mostly with Jason Spezza and Mattias Janmark, Seguin scored the winner in the third period and looked his most comfortable since being separated from longtime linemate Jamie Benn at the beginning of November.

It's been a challenge for Seguin, not defensively where he's been exemplary, but in generating offense and, specifically, scoring, especially from the hard areas of the ice.

He had 10 shots on goal in Saturday's win and it will be interesting to see if that game sparks a kind of offensive resurgence for Seguin, who had scored just once in the eight games leading up to Saturday.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.

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