The deep Dallas Stars forward corps got even stronger with the offseason addition of Matt Duchene after his buyout from the Nashville Predators.
The Stars will test their fortified front lines when they host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
Duchene scored 22 goals and earned 34 assists in 71 games for Nashville last season. He had 43 goals and 43 assists in 2021-22.
He joins a Stars team that finished with 108 points last season and reached the Western Conference Finals.
“He’s a real dynamic player and you can see it even in the practices,” Stars coach Peter DeBoer said. “He explodes with the puck, he has an elite shot, he’s played on an Olympic team and he’s a motivated guy. He wants to win. The decision he made this summer … He had better financial options. He wants to win and he’s put his money where his mouth is.”
After playing a primary role in Nashville, Duchene will start this season centering a secondary line featuring Mason Marchment and Tyler Seguin.
Jason Robertson (46 goals, 63 assists last season) and Joe Pavelski (28 goals, 49 assists) flank Roope Hintz (37 goals, 38 assists) on the explosive top line.
On the other secondary line, Wyatt Johnston plays between Jamie Benn and Evgenii Dadonov. Radek Faksa centers the fourth line with Ty Dellandrea, Craig Smith or Sam Steel.
Hintz, Johnston and Faksa missed preseason time with injuries, but they were back in practice on the eve of the opener.
On each line, the Stars have two players who can play center and take faceoffs. They also have forwards who can move up and down the lineup.
“When Roope Hintz isn’t out there and you can stick Tyler Seguin in there. It’s a great luxury to have,” DeBoer said. “And it’s a necessary luxury if you want to be one of those teams standing at the end of the day.”
The Blues added physical forwards Kevin Hayes and Oskar Sundqvist to a group that finished with 81 points last season while placing sixth in the Central Division.
But St. Louis returns the same defensive corps that struggled last season while the team allowed 3.63 goals per game. The Blues hired assistant coach Mike Weber to oversee the unit, and head coach Craig Berube spent the preseason getting the team back to the basics of defending its own zone.
The high-scoring Stars will give those adjustments a stress test.
“People have their own quadrants that they’re responsible for, and it’s a real simple way to play,” Berube said. “This is your job right here, and when the puck moves, you just get back to your position. It protects the net area and protects the slot area.”
The Blues are playing with more zone principles, which they hope will lead to less chasing around and better coverage in front of the net.
“We’re not leaving good ice, which I think will help us keep our grade-A chances against way down,” Blues defenseman Torey Krug said told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s a D-zone that I’ve run pretty much my whole career, and I feel pretty strongly about it.”