The Dallas Stars and their stingy defensive ways will be put to the test when they host the high-octane offense of the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.
The Stars have allowed only 122 goals against through 48 games thus far, fourth-fewest in the NHL prior to Sunday’s action. Their 2.54 goals-against average ranks second only to the Boston Bruins.
Dallas enters Monday’s tilt with shutouts in three of its past four games, all ending in 4-0 scores. It’s a credit to both the team’s defensive play and their goaltenders.
“We’ve been good defensively, but (the goalies) have also played a big part in that,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “It’s not easy to get a shutout in this league at any time, never mind three in four games, so a pretty big accomplishment for the entire group.”
The Stars could welcome back first-line center Roope Hintz to the lineup against Buffalo. The 26-year-old Finn has been sidelined since sustaining an upper-body injury on Jan. 8 against the Florida Panthers, missing seven games.
Tyler Seguin has filled in between Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski in his absence, recording eight points and leaving the coach with a potential decision to make upon Hintz’s return. Hintz is second on the team with 19 goals and third with 44 points.
“It will be a great problem for me to have,” DeBoer said Saturday. “But I’m not going to think about it until it becomes a problem.”
The Sabres kick off a four-game road trip looking to maintain momentum and stay in the playoff hunt. Buffalo has won two in a row and is 3-1-1 in its past five after a three-game slide earlier this month, allowing the club to keep pace in the race for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Sabres are among the top teams in the NHL with an average of 3.80 goals for per game. They’ve scored at least three goals in five of their past seven games.
Victor Olofsson has been on a roll since snapping a seven-game goal drought on Jan. 7. After notching just two goals in 11 games in December, he has eight in the same span this month.
He’s scored in three straight games and five of his past six outings and, with a pair of tallies against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, reached a new career high with 21 goals. It’s the third time in his four full NHL seasons that he’s reached the 20-goal plateau.
“I feel like I had a great start (to the season), obviously, and that helped me a lot,” Olofsson said. “And then I had a small dip and I feel like these last 10 games we’ve been really clicking as a line, too, with (Casey Mittelstadt) and (Tyson Jost). I feel like we’re just feeding off each other and they’re feeding me with great passes.”
The Sabres’ penalty kill has been a sore spot for much of the season, ranking 27th in the league. It has seen some improvement of late, however, killing off 13 of the past 15 opposing power plays, a success rate of nearly 87 percent. They’ve scored two short-handed goals in their past five games and are tied for fifth in the league with six.
Craig Anderson could get the start for Buffalo. Should he get the nod, it would be his 700th NHL appearance, making him the fourth active goaltender and 31st all-time to reach the milestone.
–Field Level Media