Jets, Stars square off again
DALLAS -- For the second time in less than a week, the Winnipeg Jets and the Dallas Stars will square off Monday night at American Airlines Center.
Winnipeg (7-3-3, 17 points) defeated Dallas 5-2 on Thursday night at MTS Bell Place, a win that Jets veteran center Bryan Little remembers well.
"Yeah, it was a really good game," Little told the Jets' official website after practice Sunday. "It was fast and physical and chippy. It feels like we just played them, so I expect the same to carry over tomorrow (Monday)."
Both teams have played since then, with Winnipeg losing 5-4 at home in overtime to Montreal on Saturday, the same night Dallas (8-6-0, 16 points) blitzed Buffalo 5-1, running the Stars' home record to 5-1-0.
After Dallas dropped its season opener on Oct. 6 to the Vegas Golden Knights, it has won five straight on home ice.
However, if the Stars are going to continue that run of good home form Monday against their Central Division rival, they might do so a bit short-handed.
That's because center Radek Faksa (lower body) and forward Tyler Pitlick (upper body) are both listed as doubtful for Monday.
"Both are day to day and I'd say doubtful right now. I don't think they're going to be able to play," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said of Faksa and Pitlick after practice Sunday.
The Stars could get veteran forward Martin Hanzal, out the past three games with a lower-body injury, back on Monday, but that situation remains fluid.
"We're testing Hanzal today competitively to see if he's ready to go," Hitchcock said. "We'll see where he's at, but we're not sure yet until we get the evaluation on the test."
Hitchcock said that should Faksa, Hanzal and Pitlick be unavailable, the Stars would recall a forward from AHL Texas in Cedar Park.
But if Hanzal can return, then the veteran NHL coach would entertain the idea of skating 11 forwards and seven defensemen, with Jamie Oleksiak being the likely candidate to see ice time at forward.
"Yeah, he's got that capability. He's mobile, he's big, he knows how to play moving forward," Hitchcock said of Oleksiak. "He would be the logical guy right now. There's a lot of trust in us that he knows how to do the job."
One decision Hitchcock has already made is on his starting goaltender for Monday, naming Ben Bishop, who is 6-3-0 with a 2.66 goals-against-average and a .913 save percentage.
Dallas made one roster move Sunday, placing forward Brett Ritchie on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. Ritchie, who sustained the injury on Oct. 30 at Vancouver, had a breakout season in 2016-17, but has just two points in 12 games so far this season.
The Jets could get a lift from the likely return of injured center Adam Lowry, out the past nine games with an upper-body injury. Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice termed Lowry, who last played Oct. 12 at Vancouver, as probable for Monday after Sunday's practice.
Winnipeg is 3-0-0 in the Central Division this season, but Maurice knows Dallas, especially the new-and-improved Stars in year one under Hitchcock, always present their own set of challenges.
"I think the Dallas games always have a little bit of everything. It's a high-end chance game," Maurice said. "They're good hockey games. There always seems to be more chances than both teams would want maybe, but a lot of that has to do with the skill level.
"They've got a couple guys in the back end like we do that can really change the way the game looks. They've got some really good finishers and speed up front, and there's quite a bit of good grit in the lineup."
One big story from the teams' meeting last week was the Jets going 2 of 3 on the power play, a trend that Hitchcock would rather not see repeat itself in Dallas.
"Both teams have the ability to burn you on the power play," Hitchcock said. "We didn't get any power plays against Winnipeg because we didn't earn them. We're going to have to earn some power plays and then we're going to have to shut down theirs because right now in the last two games, their power play is really hot.
"We have to make sure we stay out of the box and get some of our own looks. Special teams look like they're going to be a major factor. They were the last game too."
Updated November 5, 2017