The Stars open up the preseason Monday at home against the St. Louis Blues, which will be the first of two matchups before the season begins (Oct. 1 in Kansas City). St. Louis defeated the Arizona Coyotes 5-4 on Saturday in their opener.
The Youngsters Get Their Shot
Tonight will be our first look at the “big three” prospects in NHL preseason action with each having a realistic shot at playing at the highest level. Wyatt Johnston will get the best look in game one as he skates on the second line, while Logan Stankoven and Mavrik Bourque will play together on the third line. For Johnston, he wants to draw on previous experience and just keep things simple.
“I think it helps a lot I had a chance to play one game last year,” Johnston said after morning skate. “I think I am definitely a little bit more comfortable this time around. It was good to get a taste of preseason hockey.”
“Just get on the ice and try to make a good first impression,” he said when asked how he will approach his first shift tonight. “Not do anything over-difficult but just keep it really simple and play my game.”
For the two 19-year-olds, their tryout really begins tonight. While Bourque can play at the AHL level without any issue, Johnston and Stankoven will be required to either stay in the NHL past nine regular-season games or head back to their respective junior teams. If they stay in Dallas, they will be forced to use the first year of their entry-level contracts.
Other young players that are considered on the “bubble” and are in the lineup tonight include Riley Damiani, Matej Blumel, Riley Tufte, and Nils Lundkvist.
The Top Line Without Robertson
First, we have no news on Jason Robertson’s contract. So without him, Dallas will be rolling different trios in their top six. To start, we will see a trio of Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, and Jacob Peterson. Peterson plays a similar style of game to Robertson and I believe should fit in well on that line.
Unfortunately, the longer the Robertson negotiations last, the more uncertain we feel about opening night and the less we know about Pete DeBoer’s approach to that top line. Will he continue to roll the trio that was so dominant last season? Or is he looking to spread out the offense across all four lines? For the second part, he gave us a look into his mindset.
“We need four lines to score,” DeBoer said before training camp. “This hasn’t been a high-scoring team for quite a while and part of that is that we need contributions from everybody. We need to be a team that attacks in waves and comes off the bench where any of the four lines are capable of scoring goals. More importantly, is having that mentality–they are not just out there to get off the ice even, we want to tilt the ice when they are out there and chip in.”
Does Khudobin Have a Legitimate Shot?
An interesting storyline to follow for Dallas is Anton Khudobin’s search to return to the NHL level. After losing his job to Jake Oettinger in 2020-21, fighting multiple bouts of COVID, and undergoing successful hip surgery that kept him out most of last season, the 36-year-old fan favorite is back around the club and excited for another opportunity.
“Oh it’s awesome, awesome,” Khudobin said at camp. “When I was skating by myself without getting any shots, it was boring, but when I was able to skate with the guys and get shots, it was an awesome feeling.”
DeBoer said that the team is going to take it easy with Khudoboin’s recovery. He was a full participant in camp but mostly avoided going down and risking re-aggravating the injury. He will start the game tonight and play at least the first period before Oettinger takes over for the remainder of the game.
“I am not thinking about that [expectations], to be honest,” Khudobin said. “I am thinking: recover as fast as possible, be in shape, and help the guys to win games.”
Dallas Projected Lines & Pairs
Blues Projected Lineup
Forwards: Acciari, Angello, Bakanov, Barbashev, Bitten, Brown, Frk, Laferriere, Leivo, McGing, Sim, Walker.
Defense: Galloway, Gaudet, Krug, Mikkola, Parayko, Santini.
Goalies: Greiss, Ellis.
“One, our focus is us more than the other team,” DeBoer said. “We are playing a great team tonight but we are not spending a lot of time on St. Louis or their systems, we are working on us and the things we are trying to incorporate. We got our first power-play reps today, so we are going to start to chip away at that. But at the same time, you want to get the young guys out there and get a real look at them, you want to get the guys who are fighting for positions on the team the right amount of ice time.”