After more than four months away from their home rink, the Dallas Stars will return to the American Airlines Center to open up preseason play against the St. Louis Blues on Monday night. They will bring a relatively young lineup to the table with a handful of new faces, leaving the door open for rookies to impress.
An NHL hockey game will be played at the American Airlines Center tonight as the Dallas Stars welcome the St. Louis Blues to town to open their 2019 preseason slate. After more than four months of waiting, retooling, and planning, hockey is finally inching closer to a full return.
The Stars will hop back into in-game action tonight after staying busy over the past few days. The team hosted Media Day this past Thursday at Comerica Center as players took turns talking in front of various cameras, filming promotional videos to use throughout the 2019-20 season, and going through team physicals.
On Friday morning, the team’s 63-man roster hit the ice to start day one of training camp in Frisco. A steady crowd of fans were on hand for the entire weekend as Dallas Stars veterans and prospects took part in drills with their various groups and worked with the coaching staff to get ready for the regular season.
And now that training camp is in the rearview mirror, it’s time to begin preseason play.
The Stars held their morning skate at the Comerica Center on Monday morning as they prepared for their contest against the St. Louis Blues. No roster cuts have been announced yet, so the game group skated with the coaches first, followed by the other 43 players not in tonight’s lineup in two separate practice groups.
As is the custom in the first preseason game of any season, Dallas sported a fairly young lineup at Monday’s morning skate. With the coaching staff aiming to have the roster narrowed down to 25 players or so by the final preseason game, the first game or two on the schedule offer a chance for young players to make a strong impression and continue fighting for a roster spot or the highest possible spot on the organization’s depth chart.
Here’s how the Dallas Stars are expected to line up on Monday night:
Riley Tufte – Ty Dellandrea – Stefan Noesen
Nick Caamano – Rhett Gardner – Jason Robertson
Thomas Harley – Roman Polak
Emil Djuse – Dawson Barteaux
A couple of things to take note of regarding tonight’s lineup:
This is essentially a tryout for an NHL roster spot for a handful of Stars prospects, including Joel Kiviranta, Denis Gurianov, and Ty Dellandrea.
Kiviranta was signed as a free agent by the Stars on May 31, 2019 after spending the past five seasons playing with Sport in Liiga (the top Finnish league). While a bit undersized at 5-11, 180 lb., Kiviranta put together an impressive showing at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in his first taste of North American hockey and could be an option in Dallas this year.
“He’s a real smart hockey player,” Stars coach Jim Montgomery said of Kiviranta on Monday. “Great details and habits to his game. Whatever Finland is doing right now to develop hockey players, they’re doing it at a great level.”
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“He works hard and he’s got some skill, too,” added fellow Finn Esa Lindell on Saturday. “He can play the checking line and the top line. He worked his way up. He wasn’t like a young superstar in the Finnish leagues. I think that shows how hard he’s been working.”
For Gurianov, tonight’s game presents a chance to further solidify his case for a full-time spot on the Dallas Stars roster. After playing 21 games in Dallas last season and tallying one goal and four points, Gurianov was sent back down to the Texas Stars in the AHL a little over one month before the postseason began. But the NHL exposure in 2018-19 was a big step forward for the 2015 first-round pick after seeing his legitimacy as an NHL option be pulled into questioning following a rough end to the 2017-18 season.
Gurianov could just as easily be in the top six on opening night as he could be a healthy scratch or even down in Austin. His preseason play will play a big role in determining his final destination.
“I see a more confident person as far as playing with Jamie and [Joe Pavelski],” Montgomery said about Gurianov on Sunday. “The same skillset, power and ability is there; now it has to transfer into games. We’re excited about what he can add to our lineup on a nightly basis.”
Ty Dellandrea will get a chance to continue building on impressive showings in Traverse City and training camp as he vies for an NHL roster spot. Due to Dellandrea being 19 years old, he is only allowed to play either in the NHL or in the OHL with a struggling Flint Firebirds team in the season ahead. He proved in a short AHL stint at the end of the 2018-19 season that he may be ready for a full-time spot in the pros, so a spot on the Dallas roster seems like a legitimate option for the young center.
Monty had positive things to say about the Stars’ 2018 first-round pick throughout camp.
“He was really good today,” Montgomery said of Dellandrea on Sunday. “Face-offs were excellent, he competes hard, and he’s a dog on the puck. I think with the style and brand of hockey that we like to play with a relentless attitude, I think he does it at both ends of the ice. He’s been good.”
In addition, it’s also a chance for other young players to lock in their spot on the depth chart with strong showings. Could Jason Robertson make a push at a roster spot in Dallas or even work his way into being the first call-up waiting in Texas? What about Tufte and Caamano? Will Emil Djuse prove to be an NHL option after signing as a free agent with the organization this past year? Can Stefan Noesen earn a contract with the team after attending camp on a PTO?
And what about Thomas Harley? After being selected in the first round by the Dallas Stars at the 2019 NHL Draft, Harley put on a solid showing at development camp, the Prospects Tournament, and camp. He impressed the coaching staff and caught the eye of both Jim Montgomery and various Stars players.
“That he looks like Miro [Heiskanen] out there,” Montgomery said on Sunday. “That’s what stands out and I’m being serious. He covers the ice really well and his instincts both offensively and defensively have been very impressive.
“What I think is impressive is when Jamie Benn, Ben Bishop, and John Klingberg have all come up to me and said how impressive he is. When he’s impressing those guys, you know he’s having an impact in camp.”
Harley will likely get a handful of preseason games under his belt before heading back to the Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL for the 2019-20 regular season. But his quick impact over the past three months is something to take note of.
The Dallas Stars will also use both of their veteran goaltenders in Monday night’s game against the Blues. Both are expected to play around half of the game, with Bishop starting and Khudobin closing out the contest. Montgomery noted that he doesn’t want to take either veteran goalie on the road during the preseason if he doesn’t have to and will save the away games for the younger goaltenders.
“It’s half assessment, and that’s on players like Harley, Dellandrea and the players that played really well in Austin last year. But then, it’s also about the vets that do play, we want them playing with pace and purpose. You want them playing the right way so that when we start the season, we start playing and it’s a natural progression. Obviously, the intensity is going to ratchet up once the regular season starts, but we want the players playing with pace.” –Montgomery on what he looks for in the preseason
Monday night presents the Stars with a chance to further assess their future on a relatively big stage. While many eyes will be on Joe Pavelski in his Dallas Stars debut and other Stars veterans like Bishop, Lindell, and Klingberg, the rookies and prospects will be a central point of focus in the game against St. Louis.
“It’s more their natural talent and seeing their game instincts, their ability to make plays and play the game at both ends of the ice,” Montgomery said about what he’s looking for on Monday. “How much do we care about how much they play with our structure? That’s very secondary.”
It’s once again time for Dallas Stars hockey at the American Airlines Center. The Stars will front a young lineup against a young Blues lineup as both teams look to get their rosters cleaned up and in order for the 2019-20 campaign.