Time: 7:30 PM EST
Place: American Airlines Center
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Panthers Blog: Defending Big D
It’s been awhile since Detroit has played a playoff game, and it looks to be awhile yet. But for the next week they can get a small taste of what that might be like. It’s not just that they are playing the Dallas Stars, a team that went on a run to the Cup Final last year. After all this Stars team is a far cry from the team they were last year, after struggling early in the year with Covid, and a myriad of injuries throughout the season. But the Wings will play them four times in a row into next weekend. Next season there will be more back to backs to be sure, but you won’t see Detroit get into a series quite like this. Now of course the stakes aren’t there, at least for Detroit, but why not make something out of this with Dallas and give the fans something to get excited about. At the very least this series will give the Wings a chance to play spoiler.
The series kicks off in Dallas tonight and tomorrow night before heading back to Detroit for Thursday and Saturday. Detroit enters the game fresh off of a one-sided loss to Chicago on Saturday, ending a three game winning streak. Dallas is 4-0-2 in their last six games, including romps over Columbus by 4-1 and 5-1 score in their last two games.
It’s been a tough season for the Stars that were hoping to recapture last year’s magic. However they still have a chance to get themselves into the last divisional playoff spot. With 13 games to go they look well on track to leap Chicago, trailing them by only 1 point with 2 games in hand. But more importantly they trail Nashville by 3 points with 3 games in hand. A one sided series here with Detroit would go a long way toward getting them there. But if they come away with even a 2-2 split, they’ll be in a dogfight with Nashville the rest of the way.
Detroit is plodding their way towards the end of another rebuilding season. With this series against Dallas, the Wings are hoping to get players like Filip Zadina going. He has looked really good at times, especially lately, but the production hasn’t followed. It’s great that he’s showing he can play both ends of the ice, but Detroit needs more on the stat sheet than his 2 points in his last 9 games show. Rasmussen is another youngster that has looked better as he’s logged more games and recently more ice time every night. He’s grabbed 3 points in his last 3 games and has stayed mostly above 15:00 of ice time a night since the beginning of April. In terms of surprises, who would have thought Adam Erne would be leading this team in goal scoring at this point in the season. He has been red hot, riding an 8-game point streak that was snapped in the shutout against Chicago on Saturday. Maybe Yzerman knew Erne had this in him when he grabbed him in the summer of 2019.
After jettisoning a couple of veterans in Merrill and Nemeth at the deadline, the Wings have allowed Dennis Cholowski and Gustav Lindstrom to show what they can do on the back end for this squad. The results have been mixed for the two but they are least getting the playing time needed to showcase themselves prior to selections for expansion draft exposure. One or both are likely to be left open for Seattle. Troy Stetcher has found some more production lately potting 4 points in his last 5 games. This after being scratched at the end of March for a few games.
Dallas is led by Joe Pavelski this season, with his 18 goals and 41 points, proving the veteran still has plenty in the tank. Jamie Benn has continued a bit of a downward trend from season to season in terms of his production. He’d be on pace for less than 20 goals in an 82 game season. But the Stars have had breakout seasons from a couple of players that will be part of their next wave. Roope Hintz has taken a step forward with 35 points in 31 games, roughly doubling his past production rates in what is his third season. Rookie Jason Robertson has emerged as a talented winger. At 21 years old this season, he has posted 12 goals along with 32 points in 38 games. Not to add salt to the wound that is the 2017 draft but Robertson was taken in that draft at 38th overall. That’s the same draft the Red Wings drafted Michael Rasmussen at 9th overall, but also Gustav Lindstrom the pick immediately before Robertson was taken. It’s early but the Wings might’ve missed a gem here.
On defense, the Stars have the always dangerous Miro Heiskanen, sporting 22 points in 43 games this season. John Klingberg is their leading offensive defenseman with 30 points so far, something he has consistently done since entering the league six seasons ago. Jamie Oleksiak has proven this season that he can handle larger minutes, rounding out Dallas’ second pairing with Esa Lindell. Oleksiak is averaging 20:15 a night, nearly 5:00 more than most of his other seasons in his career.
Keep an eye for the Game Day Updates post for who the goaltenders will be. For the Wings they may look to Thomas Greiss if they are continuing the pattern of alternating their two netminders. Greiss has looked much better after struggling to find a groove through most of the season. For Dallas, Khudobin and Oettinger have split the season nearly 50/50 to this point, sporting similar stat lines. Khudobin has a 2.34 GAA with .913 SV%, while Oettinger has a 2.16 GAA and .919 SV%. Both are formidable foes and the Wings will get a healthy dose of both in this series.