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Morning Skate: Heiskanen Out, Stars Return Home vs Capitals

The Dallas Stars return home to take on the Washington Capitals after dropping three of four on the recent road trip.

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After a four-game road trip, the Dallas Stars return home to kick off a three-game homestand against the Washington Capitals on Thursday. 

They will need to do so without one of their best players though, as Miro Heiskanen has been ruled out with an upper-body injury. 

“Day-to-day,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “He is not going to play tonight. But we are talking about him improving.”

Heiskanen was injured late in the game Monday against the Ottawa Senators. Despite finishing the game, he missed Tuesday’s tilt in Boston and did not skate this morning. 

“I am not worried about anything long-term,” DeBoer added. “He’ll be in the conversation for Saturday.” 

Without Heiskanen, Joel Hanley will step into the lineup for the second straight game. Hanley has grown accustomed to the life of a seventh defenseman over the past few seasons and has been praised for how well he can step in on short notice and deliver a consistent game on the ice. 

“That’s way tougher than it looks, to sit that long and then jump in and play at a high level,” DeBoer said. “When we were talking about rosters in the summer, I didn’t know him real well. Jim [Nill] told me that he has a history of being able to do that, which is a great asset for a guy that is in the depth of your D-corps.”

Up front, the Stars have begun to mix things up and give some different looks after rolling out the same lineup over the first five games. 

On Wednesday, they made their first roster move of the season, calling up forward Matej Blumel and sending forward Jacob Peterson down to the AHL. Blumel skated as an extra this morning and will not play tonight, but will get his chance soon according to DeBoer. 

“He is in the mix,” he said. “He had a great camp. Had a fantastic start in the American League, which is a tough league to score in, and he scored just about every night down there. I’m a fan.” 

The Stars learned a lot on their recent road trip. They lost their first three games of the season, played their first back-to-back, and really got a realistic look at what it takes to win every night in this league. The main takeaway: adapting on the fly. 

“How fast you’ve got to play to be successful,” Esa Lindell said. “The team needs to play fast. Then you’ve got to find ways to slow them down. And when they try to do the same to us, we have to find ways to beat that.”

“I think it was beneficial,” DeBoer said of the first trip. “You learn something about your group, they get to know each other. We are seven games in. The points are important but the process is more important. Other than the Ottawa second and third, we didn’t get the points that we wanted, but the process is there.” 

Starting Goaltender: Jake Oettinger will make his fifth start of the season. He is 4-1-0 and ranks among the league leaders with a .953 save percentage (3rd) and 1.41 goals-against average (2nd). 

Stars Projected Lines

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

Capitals Scouting Report 

The Capitals are led by none other than ‘The Great Eight’ Alexander Ovechkin. Like Joe Pavelski, Ovechkin has not let time slow him down. At the age of 37, he leads the Caps with six points in seven games. 

He has struggled on the defensive side of the puck though, with a rating of minus-7. In his career, Ovi has hit some extreme highs (plus-45) and extreme lows (minus-35) in that category. 

Newcomer Darcy Kuemper is expected to start in Dallas and has been average in net since coming to Washington after leading the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup last season. He has a winning 3-2-0 record but sports some mediocre numbers with a .899 save percentage and 3.04 goals-against average. He has only finished with a .900 or above in two of the five games he has appeared in this season. 

Sam’s Three Keys

  • Test Kuemper early and often 
  • Fewer than three penalties (keep it until it happens)
  • More from the top line (0 points in the last two games)

He Said It 

“I think [Denis] Gurianov has to build the foundation of his game before he’ll start to score,” DeBoer said. “That’s what we’re concentrating on.” 

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