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Stars navigate tough road slate in attempt to catch St. Louis in central division

For seemingly the first time in the 2019-20 season, the Dallas Stars aren’t battling some sort of chaos.

Whether it was October’s putrid 2-7-1 start to the season, November’s franchise record 7-game win streak, Jim Montgomery’s firing in December, or the good and bad that comes with national attention in the 2020 NHL Winter Classic and All-Star Game, February has been a chance for the Stars to return to normality.

That’s been a good thing, so far. Dallas hasn’t lost in regulation in February, and is 3-1-1 since the All-Star Break- with two of those regulation wins coming on the recent Metropolitan road tilt. Dallas has a great opportunity to gain ground in the Central Division with a weekend road back-to-back against Minnesota and St. Louis, respectively. Here’s how its broken down piece by piece.

Unit grades

Offense: B-. Joe Pavelski has looked like Captain America in the month of February. The former San Jose Sharks captain has racked up three goals and four points in the last three games. Still, Dallas has fallen to 28th in the NHL in goals forced with 140, trailing immediately behind cellar dwellers New Jersey and San Jose.

Defense: A. Stephen Johns’ return has been the feel-good story of 2020. The defenseman scored his first goal since 2017 on Monday night in New York in a win over the Rangers. Dallas still has given up the least amount of goals in the Western Conference, and it’s the defense that is definitely the unit doing the legwork with the Stars’ +6 margin- especially impressive considering their offensive play.

Special Teams: B. Dallas’ power play has been better recently- Pavelski had two power play goals Monday- but it still isn’t elite. As a team, the Stars still sit a notch below 20 percent, good for 15th in the league. Its Penalty kill has taken a step back, but has stayed steady. Dallas ranks fifth in the West, stopping 82 percent of opponent power play opportunities.

Goaltending: B+. At one point, both Dallas’ Anton Khoudobin and Ben Bishop ranked top-five in the NHL in save percentage. They’ve both since taken a step back, but both still rank in the top ten, sitting at 4th and 6th respectively among regular goaltenders at time of publication. Dallas is the only team in the league who can boast such a feat for its goalie tandem.

Coaching: B. Once again, hard to grade- Rick Bowness is still in Dallas on an interim basis. However, the team is 12-7-2 in 21 games under his leadership after Jim Montgomery was dismissed December 10.

Team notes:

Standing: 65 points, 3rd Central Division. 1 point back of second-place Colorado, 5 points behind first-place and defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis.

Personnel: Stephen Johns returns to the lineup Friday after a one-game absence, replacing Taylor Fedun. Bishop is slated to get the start in net opposite Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk.

Notes: Blake Comeau was slated as an alternate captain Saturday vs. New Jersey… He will rotate in that role along with John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Tyler Seguin. Minnsota’s Zach Parise will skate in his 1,000th game Friday night.

Up next: Friday vs. Minnesota, Saturday at St. Louis, Tuesday vs. Carolina, Thursday at Toronto.

Staff Writer covering the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars for Dallas Sports Fanatic. Sports journalism grad from the University of Missouri. Christ follower, Dallas sports fan living in Houston.

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