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NHL: Dallas Stars @ Vegas Golden Knights preview

Two teams with Stanley Cup aspirations from the Western Conference clash on Saturday as the Pacific Division leading Vegas Golden Knights host the Central Division topping Dallas Stars.

WhatDallas Stars @ Vegas Golden Knights
WhereT-Mobile Arena, Vegas
When10:00pm ET, Saturday February 25th
How to watchNHL.com / Viaplay sports
OddsDallas Stars +100, Vegas Golden Knights -120

While both teams currently hold first place in their respective division, each faces a tough challenge to stay there with the top four in the Pacific separated by just five points and the Central's top four just three points apart. 

The Golden Knights (35-18-5) are +130 to win the Pacific Division and the Stars (30-16-12) +175 to win the Central. 

Dealing with injuries

The Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time in their short history last season, in large part due to injuries to several key players. 

The injury bug hasn't gone away but under a new coach in Bruce Cassidy, Vegas has found a way to deal with it much better. 

Most recently, Captain Mark Stone (17 goals, 21 assists) has been ruled out until at least playoff time, and goalie Logan Thompson who was already covering for number-one Robin Lehner, has been listed as week-to-week with a lower body injury. 

25-year-old rookie Thompson has missed the last five games but back-up Aidan Hill and third-choice Laurent Brossoit have stood in admirably leading them to four wins and nine points from 10 in that span. 

Thompson has a 20-13-3 record, .914 save percentage and 2.66 goals against average and is +2500 to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year. 

Hill, 26, acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the off-season to back up Thompson is 14-5-1 with a .910 save percentage and 2.55 and Brissoit has a .925 save percentage and 2.39 GAA in his two recent games. 

Despite the continued bad luck in net, the Golden Knights have been able to record a respectable defensive record, conceding an average of 2.78 over the season which ranks 11th. 

Led by Chandler Stephenson with 49 points (12 goals, 37 assists) and top goal scorers Jack Eichel (19 goals, 23 assists) and Reilly Smith (19 goals, 20 assists), Vegas have averaged 3.22 goals per game which is 13th in the league.

Stars seeking offensive answers 

Dallas have lost their last five games (0-3-2) and are 2-2-5 in the past nine games during which they have scored just 17 goals, far lower than their season average of 3.21 (14th). 

Since the turn of the year, the Stars' powerplay has been firing at just 9.6% which ranks 30th over that period and has seen their season average slip from one of the league's very best to ninth at 23.1%. 

After their most recent defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks, several Dallas players expressed their confidence in the team's ability to re-group, including top goal and point scorer Jason Robertson whose 72 points ranks 10th in the NHL and his 35 goals is fifth best. 

The 23-year-old is in his third full season with the Stars and is on pace to beat his career best of 79 points and 41 goals last season which makes him +3300 to win the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player. 

Helped by goalie Jake Oettinger's .925 save percentage and 2.24 GAA (23-8-9), Dallas have the second-best defensive record in the NHL, conceding 2.57 goals per game which provides comfort, but they must quickly find answers at the other end. 

In his third season with the Stars, 24-year-old Oettinger is +900 to win the Vezina Trophy as goalie of the year.

DeBoer aiming to double down 

Dallas hired coach Peter DeBoer in the summer after he was sacked by the Golden Knights following three seasons in charge. 

DeBoer put together an impressive 98-50-12 record in his three seasons as the Golden Knights coach, but ultimately wasn't able to deliver the Stanley Cup which they are desperately striving for. 

Replaced by former Boston Bruin Cassidy, DeBoer enjoyed his first return to Vegas in mid-January as his Stars side hammered the Golden Knights 4-0 on their home ice which contributed to their 15-8-5 away record. 

A similar result would be just as satisfying for DeBoer who has done a tremendous job to prove any doubters wrong this season. 

Cassidy has also bounced back strongly from his firing by Boston, and will be highly motivated to not let DeBoer get one over on him again, especially on home ice where the Golden Knights are 18-13-0. 

The pair have been rightfully rewarded for their work this season by being nominated to coach their respective division's team at the All-Star Game and they are both +1600 to win the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. 

Cassidy is +1300 to do what DeBoer couldn't and lead Vegas to their first Stanley Cup and with their first coming in 1999, the Stars coach is +1600 to deliver a second championship to the city of Dallas.

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