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Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Stars game at American Airlines Arena on Saturday (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).
The matchup: The Canadiens are on a three-game win streak after a dramatic come-from-behind overtime win over the Golden Knights Thursday in Las Vegas and they could sweep their three-game tour of the U.S. southwest with a win over the Stars. The 5-4 win in Vegas came on the second half of a back-to-back situation and the Canadiens got a break from the schedule maker because they enjoyed a day off Friday while the Stars were playing in Colorado. The Stars have gotten off to a slow start and had a 5-8-1 record heading into their game against the Avalanche.
The goaltenders: Head coach Claude Julien resisted the temptation to use Carey Price against the Golden Knights and he was rewarded when backup Keith Kinkaid made just enough big stops to post his first win. Managing Price’s workload will be an ongoing project, but he’ll be well-rested for the Dallas game, Price has shown a gradual improvement this season and checks in with a 6-3-1 record and a 2.59 goals-against average. Ben Bishop has handled most of the work in Dallas. He has a 12-4-4 record against the Canadiens with a sparkling 1.79 GAA.
Happy dilemma: Julien is a big believer in depth and internal competition, and he had to be happy with rookie Nick Suzuki’s performance at centre in Las Vegas. Suzuki is a natural centre, but he has been used as a right winger. He received a chance to move into the middle after Jesperi Kotkaniemi suffered what was described as a minor groin injury. Suzuki won six of his seven faceoffs and played a strong two-way game. If he continues to play well, Kotkaniemi might have difficulty reclaiming his position and could find himself playing on the wing.
Offence is clicking: The Canadiens have shed their reputation for being a boring, defensive-minded team. They are in a playoff spot because the offence ranks fourth in the NHL, averaging 3.77 goals a game. Jonathan Drouin, who got help from opposing defencemen in the past two games, is tied with Brendan Gallagher for the team lead in goals, with seven. Drouin and Gallagher are tied for the points lead with 12, while Tomas Tatar (11 points) is on pace for another career season. Joel Armia has six goals, including three on the power play.
Familiar face: Alexander Radulov, who spurned the Canadiens‘ contract offer two years ago, is off to a decent start for the Stars, who rank last in the NHL in offence with a mere 2.21 goals a game. He has four goals, four assists and a team-high plus-5 rating. Tyler Seguin leads the Stars, with nine points, while Radulov, Miro Heiskanen, and Roope Hintz each have eight. Hintz is the leading goal-scorer, with seven. Veterans Jamie Benn and Corey Perry haven’t been pulling their weight. Benn, a former Art Ross Trophy winner, has one goal and five assists, while Perry, who missed the beginning of the season with a broken foot, has a goal and two assists in seven games.