Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals host the Dallas Stars for the first of two meetings in a span of five days between the two teams on Tuesday night. The teams will face each other again at American Airlines Center in the Lone Star State on Saturday night. The Stars took both games of the season set with the Capitals in overtime last year, including a 4-3 win in Washington on November 3. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for two straight seasons, the Stars grabbed the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 93 points last year. They surprised many in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as they downed the Central Division winners, the Nashville Predators, in six games. The Stars had a 3-2 series lead on the eventual Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues in the second round, but dropped Game 6 on home ice and fell in double overtime of Game 7. They are off to an 0-3-0 start this season.
Over the offseason, the Stars added one of the top unrestricted free agents on the market in forward Joe Pavelski, a five-time 30-goal scorer in 13 seasons with the San Jose Sharks (scored 38 last season), to bolster an offense that finished with an average of 2.55 goals-per-game last year, which was tied with the Arizona Coyotes for 28th in the league. They also acquired forward Corey Perry, who will miss Tuesday night’s game with a broken foot and a six-time 30-goal scorer in 14 seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, and defenseman Andrej Sekera through free agency. They lost forwards Mats Zuccarello, Valeri Nichuskin, and Jason Spezza in the offseason.
Through three games this season, forward Mattias Janmark (two assists) and center Roope Hintz (three goals) share the Stars’ team lead, who have scored just six goals in their first three games this season, with three points. Center Tyler Seguin led the Stars in goals (33), assists (47), and points (80) last season. He tied Zuccarello for the team lead with four goals and 11 points in the postseason. Forward Jamie Benn led the Stars with eight assists during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Stars’ average of 2.44 goals-against per game and .9353 team save percentage last season were each second in the NHL while their 82.8% penalty-killing efficiency was fifth.
The team wraps up a three-game road-trip at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night. After falling to the Blues by a score of 3-2 on Saturday, they lost the Detroit Red Wings by a 4-3 count on Sunday night despite leading 2-0 in the first period. The Stars went 19-18-4 on the road last season.
Expect to see goaltender Ben Bishop, a Vezina-Trophy finalist last season after he led the NHL with a .934 save percentage, was second with a 1.98 save percentage, third with seven shutouts, and finished with a 27-15-2 record, start in Washington on Tuesday night. In his career against the Capitals, the 32-year old is 3-6-2 with an .890 save percentage and a 3.41 goals-against average.
The Capitals close out a short two-game homestand against the Stars after falling 3-2 in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes in their home opener on Saturday night despite leading 2-0 in the third period. The team went 24-11-6 at Capital One Arena last season, falling short of the 25-win mark at home for the first time since 2013-14 when they last missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who missed the first three games of the season serving a suspension for inappropriate conduct, will make his season debut for the Capitals on Tuesday night. Kuznetsov was third on the team with 51 assists and 72 points, respectively, last season. In addition, it looks like defenseman Michal Kempny, who has not played since March 20 as he has been recovering from hamstring surgery, could return after the team sent Martin Fehervary to the AHL’s Hershey Bears on Sunday. Kempny led the Capitals with a +24 rating and set career-highs in goals (six), assists (19), and points (25) in his first full season with the team last year. The Capitals also placed center Travis Boyd on waivers on Sunday in an effort to make room under the NHL salary cap for Kuznetsov.
Through three games this season, forwards T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana share the team lead with two goals. The two in addition to center Lars Eller and defenseman John Carlson each have a team-leading three points. Captain Alex Ovechkin, who led the NHL with 51 goals and the Capitals with 87 points last year, has just a goal in his first two games of the season.
The Capitals have not entertained many with their offensive skill in the first three games of the season as they have just seven goals to show for it, though getting Kuznetsov back in the lineup should help there. But they are getting it done on the defensive side of the puck after they finished 17th in the NHL in goals-against (249) last season. They have held the opposition to an average of just 25.3 shots per game, which is the second-fewest in the NHL behind the Buffalo Sabres (24.5), and a total of six goals through three games to rank seventh in that category.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who went 32-19-5 with a save percentage of .911, a goals-against-average of 2.82, and three shutouts last season, will likely start against the Stars on Tuesday. He has made 45 saves on 50 shots (.900 save percentage) so far this season. The 30-year old is 2-4-1 with an .870 save percentage and a 4.02 goals-against average in his career against Dallas.
- Kuznetsov is one of nine forwards in the NHL on an active streak of four consecutive seasons with at least 40 assists, and he ranks 12th in the NHL in total assists over the last five seasons (204)
- The Capitals’ 56.72 shot attempt percentage at five-on-five (114 shot attempts for, 87 against) ranks sixth in the NHL
- Forward T.J. Oshie has recorded 26 points (12 goals) in 30 career games against the Stars
By Harrison Brown