Ducks, Stars prep for first meeting of season

DALLAS — The Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars know each other well from their days as Pacific Division bunkmates, but Saturday will mark their first meeting of the 2018-19 regular season.

And first-year Stars coach Jim Montgomery knows precisely what to expect in his fourth game behind an NHL bench.

“They’re a real good transition team offensively and defensively. They’re a little young right now due to some injuries, but those players are talented and they’re fast,” Montgomery said after practice on Friday.

Dallas (2-1-0, 4 points) started the season with back-to-back home victories over Arizona and Winnipeg, outscoring the Coyotes and Jets by a combined 8-1.

However, in Tuesday’s loss to Toronto, the Maple Leafs lit the lamp seven times in a 7-4 victory, leading Montgomery to start shuffling lines, except for his top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov.

“I didn’t want to mess with our top line,” Montgomery said. “We thought about it, but they’re just playing too well right now and we’ll wait until they cool down before we probably make a move there.”

But the rookie coach’s philosophy when it comes to shuffling lines is a simple one.

“We’re looking to see people skate more and people play more aggressively. Have calculated risk to your game and you’ll get rewarded,” Montgomery said.

After this game, Dallas will hit the road for its first trip of the season, playing at Ottawa on Monday and New Jersey on Tuesday, giving the Stars three games in four nights.

However, Montgomery admitted Friday he isn’t too concerned about next week, at least not yet.

“I’m not worried about managing three in four. I’m worried about tomorrow (Saturday) night,” he said.

The Ducks (3-0-1, 7 points) sit atop the Pacific standings, even after a 3-2 shootout loss to Arizona on Wednesday.

And even though Anaheim didn’t get the full two points against the Coyotes, one big positive from that narrow defeat was the season debut of Ryan Kesler, who had been sidelined with a hip injury.

Kesler even scored the Ducks’ first goal of the game.

“Well, I thought he was fine,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said of Kesler postgame. “It’s a long time since he played, and he went through a rigorous rehab over the course of the summer months and into September and training camp. We know what kind of a warrior he is. He’s a committed guy and he does everything he possibly can to complement our entire group.”

Anaheim is starting a quick two-game trip that takes the Ducks to Dallas on Saturday and then to St. Louis on Sunday to finish the back-to-back.

Last season, the Ducks took two of the three meetings with the Stars, and Anaheim forward Adam Henrique knows exactly what to expect any time these former division rivals square off.

“They play fast; they’re a highly-skilled offensive team,” Henrique said after practice Friday. “I think they play exciting hockey, so I think we have to go in there with the mindset of try to contain those guys.”