The Dallas Stars are in the midst of a five-game, 11-day road trip that resumes with a game against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. The Stars 1-2 on the current road trip and 6-5-0 on the season.
Here are five things we are watching this week:
1. What role does defenseman Greg Pateryn play?
Greg Pateryn’s usage this season is a bit puzzling. For the first nine games he was the Stars' eighth defender and essentially a practice player. But after an injury to Stephen Johns he made his season debut against the Edmonton Oilers and played well.
The next night against the Calgary Flames he led the team in ice time in a 2-1 victory. Pateryn appeared to play well, but the analytics were a bit wonky in the game. He had the worst 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage, but had a higher percentage of offensive zone starts than any other player -- essentially when Pateryn was on the ice the Stars were giving up ideal positioning.
Johns has yet to be cleared, so Pateryn should still be in the lineup to start this week. That will give us more of a sample size to figure out how Ken Hitchcock actually plans to use the defender.
2. Call-up soon?
The Stars' lack of secondary scoring has been one of their most noticeable weaknesses this season. If that continues the team could bring Jason Dickinson up from the AHL’s Texas Stars for a bit of a boost.
Dickinson isn’t an instant fix to the offensive woes on the bottom-three lines, but he brings a higher skill set than other depth options including Remi Elie and Gemel Smith. Dickinson has also been a dominant force in the AHL so far with six goals and seven points in nine games.
3. Finishing on the road
At home the Stars have been closers. They’ve gone into the third period of close games, made smart plays, defended well, and stay composed under pressure. That hasn’t been the case on the road where the Stars have struggled to be difference makers in the final stanza.
The Stars play road games against the Vancouver Canucks and the Winnipeg Jets this week, both should be close -- that’s the nature of the NHL -- and Dallas will have to prove they can show up in the third period.
The second power play unit struggled for most of the season, but scored in back-to-back games in Alberta.
Esa Lindell has each of those goals and has grown more comfortable quarterbacking the second unit, which may be one of the reasons Julius Honka has been a healthy scratch. Can Lindell build on that success going forward? It’s something to keep an eye on.
5. Prediction for the week (which will likely be wrong)
The Stars split the remaining games on their road trip, winning in Vancouver on Monday before losing to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. Team returns home with a win against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
You can follow Sean Shapiro on Twitter at @SeanShapiro.
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