After having time off to make room for the NHL’s All-Star Weekend, teams across the league are preparing to head into the final stretch of the regular season before the playoffs. The Dallas Stars will kick off their playoff push by hosting the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
After not playing since Jan. 19 where they ran away in a 4-2 home victory over the Winnipeg Jets, the Dallas Stars will host another northern team, the Buffalo Sabres, on Wednesday night to end their break.
When the Stars returned from their respective vacations, head coach Jim Montgomery made sure the team got back into the season mindset.
"“That was a hard practice [Sunday], and our guys kept pushing,” Montgomery said to Stars’ Senior Writer Mike Heika. “Some of the guys needed to be pushed, because some of the guys enjoyed their break a little more than I would have liked to have seen.”"
With such an important part of the schedule ahead of them, every game must count, and nobody knows that better than captain Jamie Benn.
"“That was hard, but it’s part of being a professional,” Benn told Heika. “We had a week off and we got to enjoy ourselves and regroup mentally and physically, and now we come back and try to get dialed in right away. It was definitely a hard practice, but it was something we deserved.”"
The Sabres are also looking to add some wins to their record, and preferably as many as possible.
The Sabres, who just barely sit outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture, are led by captain Jack Eichel who has a team-leading 36 assists and 52 points, and forward Jeff Skinner, who leads the team in goals with 30.
Before the All-Star break, the Sabres hit a skid, losing four out of their last five.
"“I think it’s important for us to get back to that, where we’re hard to play against in our own zone and hard to play against when we have the puck. I think the better we do that, the more success we have as a group.” Eichel told Sabres’ Writer Jourdon LaBarber late last week. “"
The Stars also went 1-4 in their last five games before the All-Star break, and will look to fight their way into the top of the Central Division standings. The Colorado Avalanche are sticking with Dallas, as they also have 52 points this season. Minnesota finished the break with 55 to slide into the Central’s third-place spot, and Winnipeg and Nashville both have 64 points to be in first and second in the Division, respectively.
The Sabres are third in the league in penalty minutes and have the ninth-best penalty kill percentage in the NHL. Buffalo does rank 25th in shooting percentage compared to Dallas at 27th, and Their 26th in goals scored in the league is slightly better than Dallas, who is at 29th.
Dallas has managed to reduce their time in the penalty box, as they sit at ninth in the league in penalty minutes. They also have the 7th best penalty kill percentage and 14th best power play percentage, compared to Buffalo, who has the 21st best power play.
Stars bring back defenseman Jamie Oleksiak
With such an important period of the schedule yet to come, the Stars also made a move over the break to alter the blue line; they traded a fourth-round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for former-Dallas defender Jamie Oleksiak. Oleksiak was drafted by Dallas in 2011 and was traded away in Dec. 2017 to the Penguins.
"“[Marc Methot and Stephen Johns] are big parts of our team and we haven’t had them all season,” Nill told Stars’ Inside Edge Mark Stepneski. “We’ve been looking around, and Jamie’s name came up. We need a heavy body back there, somebody that can play 15 minutes. Some nights we’ve got to overplay some guys because of situations. He can eat up minutes now, and it’s going to balance the ice time better.”"
Oleksiak was third on the team in hits for the Penguins this season and had 37 shot blocks. He will return to a Dallas Stars blue line that has been lacking size and will be tasked with being one of the more physical players on Dallas’ defense.
- Published on 01/30/2019 at 13:01 PM
- Last updated at 01/30/2019 at 08:02 AM