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Morning Skate: Johnston, Stars New System Debut vs Experienced Predators

Wyatt Johnston and the new system under Pete DeBoer will be among the notables to watch in the 2022-23 Dallas Stars opener against the Nashville Predators.

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The Stars open the 2022-23 season Thursday against the Nashville Predators in Music City. There is a lot to watch for in the opener as Dallas brings in a new coaching staff, system, and plenty of different faces within the lineup.

19-year-old Wyatt Johnston will become just the sixth teenager to play in an NHL game in franchise history. The OHL player of the year is coming off of an incredible 124-point season and was impressive during camp for Dallas. Now it is time to see what he can do when the games count. 

“That's what separates the guys that can do it and those who can't. Some guys just get overwhelmed by it. Some guys are happy to get as far as they did and that's good enough for now. I don't think Wyatt is one of those guys,” said Head Coach Pete DeBoer. “There are special players that just aren't wired that way. They're not out there in awe of who they're playing against, regardless of who they are playing against. That's rare and I think he's got that.”  

Thursday will also mark the first game for the new and hopefully improved system under Pete DeBoer. Dallas has struggled to score goals for years and as of the last couple seasons, they haven’t been great at keeping pucks out of their own net either. 

This year, they are expected to have more puck possession, attack more off the rush and include their defense, and be a much faster-paced and exciting club to watch. The system will certainly take time until it becomes habit, but in game one, we should get a closer look at what this Stars team can do. 

“Just excited to go,” DeBoer said. “It’s like a roller coaster, you are chinking up, chinking up, now you are at the top and now you are heading down. This is the exciting part. We can start getting ourselves on top and start building this.” 

“It’s fun that the season starts and we go play for points now, the real thing starts,” Nils Lundkvist said. “The preseason is getting adjusted and everything, and now it’s go time. It’s a lot of fun.” 

Predators Scouting Report

It will be a big challenge for Dallas, as they take on an already 2-0-0 Predators team that returns a lot of key players from a season ago. Nashville has already hit the ground running with two wins over the San Jose Sharks in Europe. 

“It’s going to be tough,” Head Coach Pete DeBoer said Tuesday. “I watched the San Jose games, they talked about them looking like they are in midseason form. You’ve got a veteran group of guys that had a real good year last year, same systems. They look like they’ve hit the ground running and they’re two games in already, which helps. So it’s a big test for us and we obviously want to get off to a quick start.” 

Newcomer Nino Niederreiter has led the way for the Preds, tallying three goals in the first two games, good enough to lead the NHL in that category to this point. An all-too-familiar Juuse Saros is expected to meet the Stars between the pipes in game one. 

With the Preds already playing two games, returning most of their corps, and playing the same system they are accustomed to, Dallas will have to be ready to go as soon as the puck drops. That is easier said than done in Nashville though, where the atmosphere and energy usually push the home team to a fast and electric start. 

“We know what we are dealing with,” DeBoer said. “There’s been plenty of warning and plenty of talk about what to expect, so there shouldn't be any surprises and it's on us to handle that type of pressure.”

Stars Projected Lines

  • Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski
  • Marchment-Seguin-Dellandrea
  • Benn-Johnston-Gurianov
  • Kiviranta-Faksa-Glendening
  • Heiskanen-Miller
  • Lindell-Lundkvist
  • Suter-Hakanpaa
  • Oettinger
  • Wedgewood

Sam’s Keys:

  • Weather the early storm
  • Don’t get frustrated with hiccups in new system
  • Score in the first period 

He Said It 

"Get a feel for the division, I definitely think that will help jumpstart me into it, into the rivalry," Mason Marchment said." Robo [Jason Robertson] was telling me that it's a pretty heated game when we play Nashville, and I like to play in those games, so it'll be fun. Get a big hit in, get on the forecheck, and figure it from there." 

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