The Dallas Stars travel to Anaheim for the first time this season to take on the Ducks on Tuesday night. This will be the first of a rare two-game set at the Honda Center between these two clubs.
Stars Remain Sitting on the Bubble
Dallas enters tonight’s contest sitting just one point out of a playoff spot in the West. The Vegas Golden Knights currently hold down that second wild-card spot but Dallas has four games in hand on the boys from Sin City. Vegas has been on a downward spiral for a few weeks now, going 4-6-0 in their last 10 games and dropping from a safe spot in the Pacific to the edge of the playoff bubble. Unfortunately, the Stars have cooled off a bit as well, going just 5-5-0 in their last 10 after a surge following the All-Star Break.
“We only had four home games this month and we’re 2-2 which is disappointing for me,” Bowness said. “It magnifies the importance of this road trip. We have the games in hand and are still in the driver’s seat for getting that seventh or eighth spot. It’s up to us to come through and deliver.
While the hourglass is not on its final grains yet, the Stars do not have a ton of time to work with on their quest for a playoff spot. Entering tonight, they have only 18 games remaining in their season. Luckily, the month of April will see 10 home games, including the final four contests of the season. For now, they begin a four-game road trip with two stops in Anaheim, a trip to San Jose, and their first ever visit to Climate Pledge Arena to take on the expansion Seattle Kraken.
“We’re going to practice Monday and that’s why we’re going out early (Sunday),” Bowness added. “You get the time difference and this team needs a good hard practice. Our team game is slipping, and we need to get it back and we will.”
The Return of Miro Heiskanen
Stars top defenseman Miro Heiskanen has missed the last 11 games dating back to March 2, as he battles a case of mononucleosis. He has been skating on his own for a couple of weeks and recently took part in morning skate on Saturday. On Monday, he took the next step, partaking in a full team practice for the first time since the illness began. Head coach Rick Bowness confirmed this morning that he will make his return on Tuesday night but that they will be monitoring his minutes.
“If he plays, and it’s day to day with Miro, if he plays, it’s not 25 minutes,” Bowness said after Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Canucks. “It’s a lot less than that. Give him a chance to slowly get back, if he plays. There’s no guarantee on that. It won’t be 25 minutes, for sure.”
In his return, Heiskanen will play a different role, meaning the other defenseman still need to step up and take on those big minutes they have been filling in his absence. Still, even in a lesser role and playing fewer minutes, Heiskanen will bring a spark, some elite puck moving, and a defensive boost to the Stars blue line.
“I guess the question is what he can’t bring?” Hakanpää said. “To be honest with you, he’s a phenomenal player. He’s going to be a big boost for us, for sure, help in all areas of the game. It’s going to be great to have him back.”
Ducks Scouting Report
The Ducks have had a similar season to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2020-21. They were not expected to have much success as they are still in the middle of a full rebuild, but despite the low expectations, they shot out of the gate and were a playoff team until about 10 games ago.
Since then, they have lost nine in a row and have fully slipped out of a playoff spot. They also shipped off some key players in Nicolas Deslauriers, Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, and Josh Manson at the trade deadline to bulk up their prospects and draft picks as the rebuild continues.
With that being said, they are still very dangerous, especially offensively. Youngster Troy Terry and Calder Trophy candidate Trevor Zegras lead the way for Anaheim in that area. Terry leads the team with 30 goals and 53 points while Zegras has tallied 16 goals and 47 points.
Zegras also leads all NHL rookies in points per game (.78) and power-play goals (6) on the season.
- Miro Heiskanen will play tonight after missing 11 games with mono
- Jake Oettinger is in goal
He Said It
“We have the games in hand, we’re still in the driver’s seat in terms of fighting that seventh, eighth spot,” Bowness said. “It’s up to us to come through now and deliver.”
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!