3 Keys: Stars at Flames, Game 1 of Western First Round

(1P) Flames vs. (WC1) Stars

Western Conference First Round, Game 1

10 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, SN, TVAS2, BSSW

The Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars will play each other for the second time in the past three postseasons when they begin their Western Conference First Round series with Game 1 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday.

The Stars defeated the Flames in six games in the 2020 Western First Round and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.

The Flames (50-21-11) won the Pacific Division for the second time since 2018-19 and their 111 points were second-most in their history; they had 117 points in 1988-89, when they won the Stanley Cup. The Stars (46-30-6) earned the first wild card into the playoffs from the West.

The Flames’ top line of left wing Johnny Gaudreau (40 goals, 75 assists), center Elias Lindholm (42 goals, 40 assists) and right wing Matthew Tkachuk (42 goals, 62 assists) combined to score 301 points (124 goals, 177 assists) this season. Gaudreau led the Flames and was tied for second in the NHL with a career-high 115 points in 82 games.

“I mean, they’re so skilled, right?” Stars forward Jason Robertson said. “They forecheck really hard. I would say our top line is similar, but they all have their strengths and they all complement each other well. So I think you just have to be aware of when they’re on the ice.”

The Stars’ top line of left wing Robertson (41 goals, 38 assist), center Roope Hintz (37 goals, 35 assists) and right wing Joe Pavelski (27 goals, 54 assists) combined for 232 points (105 goals, 127 assists). Pavelski led the Stars with an NHL career-high 81 points in 82 games.

“They’re skilled players, obviously see the ice very well, they’re a fast line, lot of speed, and they’ve been playing well throughout the whole year together,” Gaudreau said. “We have to keep our eyes on them.”

Defenseman John Klingberg, who missed the Stars’ final regular-season game, against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, because of a lower-body injury, is expected to play in Game 1.

Teams that win Game 1 are 499-228 (68.8 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series, including 6-2 in the first round last season.

Here are 3 keys for Game 1:

1. Special teams

The Flames and Stars were close in power-play proficiency during the regular season; Calgary was 10th in the NHL at 22.9 percent, Dallas was 11th at 22.4 percent. There’s bigger gap on the penalty kill, where the Flames were sixth at 83.2 percent while the Stars were 19th at 79.0 percent.

2. Oettinger’s first postseason start

Jake Oettinger appeared in two games during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he’ll make his first NHL postseason start in Game 1. The 23-year-old was 30-15-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and one shutout in 48 games (46 starts).

“We put him in a couple of third periods when the game was pretty much decided and the other team stopped playing,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “So this is his first go-round. [Flames goalie Jacob] Markstrom has been there, he has a lot more experience dealing with this than Jake does. That being said, we have full confidence in Jake and we’ll help him get through this.”

3. Something to prove

The Flames have won one playoff series since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2004 and they want to change that.

“You’re not a proven playoff team or anything until you make it several years in a row and then you have some success,” Calgary coach Darryl Sutter said. “If you look at the history of champions, that’s what they are. We’re all excited because we made the playoffs. Now you try to take the next step, try to win a game.”

Stars projected lineup

Jason Robertson — Roope Hintz — Joe Pavelski

Jamie BennVladislav NamestnikovTyler Seguin

Joel KivirantaRadek FaksaDenis Gurianov

Michael RafflLuke GlendeningAlexander Radulov

Ryan SuterMiro Heiskanen

Esa Lindell — John Klingberg

Joel HanleyJani Hakanpaa

Jake Oettinger

Scott Wedgewood

Scratched: Thomas Harley, Jacob Peterson, Andrej Sekera, Marian Studenic

Injured: None

Flames projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau — Elias Lindholm — Matthew Tkachuk

Andrew MangiapaneMikael BacklundTyler Toffoli

Dillon DubeCalle JarnkrokBlake Coleman

Milan LucicTrevor LewisBrett Ritchie

Noah HanifinRasmus Andersson

Oliver KylingtonChristopher Tanev

Nikita ZadorovErik Gudbranson

Jacob Markstrom

Dan Vladar

Scratched: Adam Ruzicka, Ryan Carpenter, Michael Stone, Connor Mackey

Injured: None

Status report

Each team held an optional morning skate. … Klingberg is likely to play, but if he’s unavailable Harley or Sekera, each a left-shot defenseman, would enter the lineup.

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