Stars face former coach Hitchcock, who has Oilers winning
That victory came with Ken Hitchcock, who coached Dallas last season before stepping down after the Stars missed the playoffs, behind the Edmonton bench.
On Nov. 20, the Oilers replaced Todd McLellan with Hitchcock, and after a 2-1 home win against Vegas on Saturday, Edmonton (13-11-2, 28 points) is now 4-1-1 since the change.
Six games are a small sample size, but Hitchcock sees ample positives with the Oilers, especially in Saturday’s win.
“Well, what I liked about the game was the way we played in the third period. We managed the game,” Hitchcock said. “We did smart things that took away their strengths. We stayed with the program, bought time, got our chance and then boom, it was in the net.”
Connor McDavid scored his 14th goal against Vegas, giving him 35 points on the season.
And Hitchcock admits McDavid is unlike any other goal scorer he’s seen.
“I see people panic when he’s on the ice,” Hitchcock said. “I’ve never seen a player like that in my life.”
Edmonton is 6-7-1 on the road.
Dallas (14-10-3, 31 points) is 3-1-1 in its past five games and with goaltender Ben Bishop stopping 24 of 25 shots in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Vancouver, his first game back after missing the previous five with a lower-body injury, the Stars have considerable cause for optimism.
Plus, the Stars are returning home, where they are 8-3-1 heading into a two-game home stand.
“It’s good to be home. It’s going to be nice to have six days here,” Stars coach Jim Montgomery said after practice Sunday. “The level of commitment that the players are showing to each other now, it’s been amazing.”
On its four-game road trip, Dallas took five of a possible eight points. The Stars also went 9-6-3 while playing 15 of their last 18 on the road.
And Montgomery sees several reasons why his club is on the upswing.
“One has been our goaltending. It’s been fantastic,” Montgomery said. “Two, it’s been a commitment to protecting the house. We’ve gotten much better in our d-zone, how we want to be aggressive, and our rush defense in communicating who should have who so that we’re not giving up point-blank chances from the slot.”
Montgomery said backup goaltender Anton Khudobin will start Monday’s game against the Oilers.
He also said forward Valeri Nichushkin, a healthy scratch for the first time this season against Vancouver, could return to the lineup.
Nichushkin has four assists in 21 games with Dallas this season and is currently on a 47-game goalless streak dating back to March 2016, his first NHL stint before playing in the KHL last season.
“I would think (Nichushkin) would be in for sure because he played really well against Edmonton (last week),” Montgomery said. “Val’s one of our better defensive forwards. Against Edmonton, you need a couple lines to be able to check against McDavid’s line.”