|Stars launch homestand against Panthers|
DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars will play their final two games before the NHL All-Star break at home, starting Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers are seeking a win after a tough road result two nights ago. Florida (19-20-6) lost 4-3 at Nashville on Saturday.
Coach Bob Boughner saw some good things in that game, but the Panthers couldn't come away with at least a point.
"There's some real good things happening," Boughner told Fox Sports Florida postgame in Nashville. "It's just a shame we're not getting a point here tonight. It (Bridgestone Arena) is a real tough building to win in."
The Panthers, who are 8-13-3 on the road and 9-10-1 against the Western Conference, have already faced the Stars (27-17-4) once, on Nov. 14, 2017, in a game the Stars won 4-3 in a shootout.
It's a win that Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock recalled after practice on Monday.
"They were much better than us in the first half of the game and then we caught them in the second half," Hitchcock said. "They got a lot of dynamic players. They get a lot of shots on goal and there are times that they overwhelm you offensively. We got to limit their offensive opportunities."
Dallas will likely be without center Martin Hanzal (lower body) for Tuesday's game. Hanzal left Saturday's 7-1 win at Buffalo and didn't practice Monday.
"He is back to day-to-day," Hitchcock said of Hanzal. "He didn't skate today (Monday). We just got to take him into every day and see where he is.
"If we're not 100 percent sure that he can e of the next two games, then we'll probably have to look at bringing somebody in as a depth player."
Veteran defenseman Marc Methot (knee), who has missed the past six games after returning from a 26-game absence on Jan. 4 against New Jersey, also remains sidelined and won't return until after the NHL All-Star break, which begins later this week.
"(Methot has made) significant progress, but not ready to participate in practice yet," Hitchcock said. "He'll be able to skate through the break here hopefully and join us sometime after the break."
With Methot unavailable for the immediate future, Dallas recalled young defenseman Dillon Heatherington from AHL Texas. In two NHL games thus far, Heatherington has impressed Hitchcock.
"He makes good decisions with the puck. He's smart, smart without it, and smart with it," Hitchcock said of Heatherington. "He helps us. He can good players, he can physical players.
"He's a good element for us. He's a really enthusiastic guy and he does little things with the puck that really help you a lot. To me, he just reminds you of a really well-coached player. He does a lot of things that you really like as an NHL coach."
Hitchcock said Heatherington will play Tuesday alongside Stephen Johns in Dallas' third defensive pairing. Hitchcock also said Ben Bishop will start in goal against Florida.
Dallas, which is 16-6-1 at home and 7-2-1 in its past 10 games, has points in eight of its past 10, the kind of consistency that pleases Hitchcock.
"Yeah, when you restrict the other team's ability to have offensive opportunities, you get chances yourself, but it's a tough sell," Hitchcock said. "It's not an easy thing to sell and it's a harder thing to maintain, kind of checking for chances or basing your foundation on proper positional play defensively so you can create offense."
After going 3-1-0 during a four-game Eastern Conference road trip last week, Dallas is now 11-4-4 against the East, a trend the Stars would like to continue in the second and final meeting of the season with the Panthers.