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Morning Skate: Stars vs Oilers, Heiskanen vs McDavid

After a 7-2 victory in Arizona Miro Heiskanen and the Stars will be tested against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

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The Stars are looking to continue their hot start (7-3-1) when they make their first trip to Edmonton to take on the Oilers on Saturday afternoon. 

When you think Oilers, you think Connor McDavid. And why wouldn't you? 

The 25-year-old center is the best player in the world. He has scored more than 100 points in all but one of his full seasons in the NHL. And he is a three-time Art Ross and one-time Hart Trophy winner to back it up. 

But Dallas has their own world-class player in Miro Heiskanen, and those two have had some battles over the years. 

At times, Dallas has given Heiskanen the tough assignment of shadowing McDavid all over the ice. There have been some noticeable successes (November 2021: 0pts, minus-1) and some very unsuccessful outings (April 2022:  1 goal, 2 assists). McDavid has 9 goals and 15 assists in 15 games against Dallas in his career. 

McDavid is likely the fastest player in the NHL, especially when in control of the puck. At times, he makes multiple opposing defenders look silly on his way to another highlight-reel goal. In fact, today marks one year since he scored one of the best goals in history. 

But something that is very underrated outside of the Dallas market, is Heiskanen’s defending skills. His skating is up there with the best (McDavid) and his stick play is perhaps second to none. How can he stop McDavid? With plays like this: 

Against most defensemen, that is a clean-cut breakaway for Clayton Keller. Against Heiskanen, it’s not even a scoring chance. 

When it comes to matching up with elite players, it is not about shutting them down. It is about limiting the chances and impact they will have on a game. While even Heiskanen cannot win every head-to-head, he gives Dallas the best chance to come out on top against McDavid and the Oilers. 

Dallas is coming off an excellent 7-2 performance against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. The game was important in itself to start off the road trip, but goals scored by Denis Gurianov, Ty Dellandrea, and Jamie Benn might have been more important. 

Gurianov has struggled to produce again early this season. Despite some noticeable games and plenty of success for his linemates Tyler Seguin and Mason Marchment, Thursday’s tally was his first goal of the season. 

Later in the game, both Dellandrea and Benn also picked up their first goals of the season. 

Benn seems to have found his role with this team, playing a physical third-line role that has added some offense as of late. After recording only three points in the first nine games, the Stars captain has five points in the last two. 

“He was maybe our best player last game and tonight, he is probably in that conversation again,” Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer said. “He’s feeling good, I think he’s enjoying playing with those two younger guys, and he’s doing a good job.” 

Benn brings a lot to the team outside of points. But having him chip in is a huge key to all four lines producing offense. That is something that has been successful this season (only Radek Faksa has not scored a goal) and is something that DeBoer has been preaching since the start. 

“That’s what we want to be, we want to be a four-line team,”DeBoer said. “We want to come at you in waves. We need four lines to be able to play with the kind of pace we want to play with.” 

Stars Projected Lines

  • Jason Robertson-Roope Hintz-Joe Pavelski
  • Mason Marchment-Tyler Seguin-Denis Gurianov
  • Jamie Benn-Wyatt Johnston-Ty Dellandrea
  • Radek Faksa-Luke Glendening-Joel Kiviranta
  • Miro Heiskanen-Colin Miller
  • Ryan Suter-Nils Lundkvist=
  • Esa Lindell-Jani Hakanpaa
  • Scott Wedgewood
  • Matt Murray 

Sam’s Three Keys

  • Slow down Connor McDavid
  • Don’t forget about the rest of the Oilers
  • Match the intensity of the Edmonton market coming off a quiet Arizona environment. 
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