The Washington Capitals host the Dallas Stars in the first meeting of the year between the two teams. The Capitals took both meetings with the Stars last season, each time by a score of 4-3, including an overtime victory at American Airlines Center on December 19. The game will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Washington starting at 7 PM.
The Stars will play the fourth game of a six-game road trip on Saturday against the Capitals. After opening the trip with a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, Dallas won back-to-back games over the Montreal Canadiens (4-1) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (3-1). After Saturday night’s tilt with the Capitals, the Stars will face the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets back-to-back before starting a four-game homestand on Thursday against the San Jose Sharks.
The Stars started the season winning three of their first four games but have dropped back since, going 4-4-0. They are currently a point out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference behind the Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks. Dallas is seventh in penalty-killing percentage at 86.5% and third in faceoff winning percentage at 53.8%.
Dallas added some depth to their roster in the offseason with the acquisitions of forward Valeri Nichuskin, who scored 16 goals, 27 points, and a +11 rating in 50 games in the KHL last season and an assist in seven games this season; defenseman Roman Polak, who tallied two goals, 12 points, and a +5 rating with the Maple Leafs last season and a goal in 10 games so far this season; and goaltender Anton Khudobin, who was 16-6-7 with a .913 save percentage and a 2.56 GAA with the Boston Bruins last season and is 2-1-0 with a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 GAA this season. Dallas also hired Jim Montgomery as head coach after five seasons with the University of Denver to replace Ken Hitchcock, who retired. Montgomery led Denver to the NCAA championship in 2017.
Rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen, the third-overall draft pick in 2017, is off to a nice start to his NHL career in Dallas with two goals and four points in 12 games. The Stars are real high on Heiskanen, who they refused to include in any trade talks with the Ottawa Senators involving defenseman Erik Karlsson this past summer.
Center Tyler Seguin leads the Stars with 14 points and is tied for the team lead with a +5 rating with Polak. Seguin, who led Dallas with 40 goals last season, signed a massive eight-year contract extension worth $76.5 million ($9.5 million AAV) prior to training camp.
Goaltender Ben Bishop will likely start for the Stars. Bishop, 31, has recorded a 5-4-0 record with a .925 save percentage and a 2.26 goals-against average so far this season. Lifetime against the Capitals, Bishop is 2-6-2 with a save percentage of .888 and a goals-against average of 3.46 in 11 appearances.
The Capitals begin a five-game homestand against the Stars on Saturday night after playing their last four games away from Capital One Arena. Washington is 3-1-1 on home ice this season and has averaged 4.6 goals per game and outscored opponents 23-14.
Washington recently wrapped up a four-game Canadian road trip, where they went 2-2-0. They are coming off of a devastating 6-4 loss to the Canadiens on Thursday night. After trailing 3-1 at the beginning of the second period, the Capitals stormed back and grabbed a 4-3 lead before the second intermission. Unfortunately for the Capitals, Montreal stunned Washington scoring three times in the last five minutes of the game, including the game-winner with 21.1 seconds to go. Captain Alex Ovechkin and center Lars Eller each scored twice against the Canadiens.
With his two goals against Montreal, Ovechkin tallied fourth two-goal game in his past nine games. He has 13 points over that span. Through the team’s first 11 games this season, the 33-year old forward is tied for second in the NHL with Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg with 10 goals. Only Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, and Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (each has 11) have more goals than Ovechkin this season.
Ovechkin and center Evgeny Kuznetsov are tied for the team lead with 16 points with Kuznetsov, 26, leading the team with 11 assists.
The Capitals enter Saturday’s game against the Stars with the league’s top power-play unit, which clicks at 36.1%. The Winnipeg Jets, who have the second-best power play in the league, score at a rate of 31.7% with the man advantage. Washington has four of the league’s top eight leaders in terms of power-play points: Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, center Nicklas Backstrom, and defenseman John Carlson each have eight points on the man advantage.
Goaltender Braden Holtby will likely start against the Stars. So far this season, Holtby, 29, is 4-3-1 with a save percentage of .887, a goals-against average of 3.60, and one shutout. In his career against Dallas, Holtby is 2-4-0 with a save percentage of .865 and a goals-against average of 4.06.
-the Capitals have been scoring on 50% of their power play opportunities at Capital One Arena (10 goals on 20 opportunities), 11.9% greater than the Winnipeg Jets, who rank second in the NHL in home power play percentage
-Since the 2014-15 season, Holtby has posted a record of 86-18-12 with a 2.19 goals against average and a .925 save percentage in 121 games following one day of rest
-Oshie has recorded 25 points (12 goals) in 27 career games against the Stars
–Andre Burakovsky has recorded seven points (five goals) in seven games against Dallas, tied for the most goals he has against a single franchise (Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins) and the highest points per game total (1.00) he has against any single franchise
Last Time We Met
After Seguin scored to give the Stars a 1-0 lead in the first, the Capitals struck with two quick goals from Oshie and defenseman Matt Niskanen in the first six minutes of the second period. Stars forward Alexander Radulov answered six minutes later but Ovechkin would restore the Capitals’ one-goal lead less than two minutes later. Stars forward Jamie Benn scored in the final two minutes of the second period to tie the game once again. It would remain scoreless until Carlson unleashed a howitzer from the high right circle to give the Capitals a 4-3 lead with less than five minutes to go. Holtby made 24 saves and the Capitals would hang on for their first home victory over Dallas since 2008.
By Harrison Brown