The Dallas Stars haven't had much success against the Florida Panthers this season, but at least -- for the moment -- they have a healthy Roope Hintz on their side.
Hintz, who has 28 points in 27 games this season, will be a key for the Stars when they play host to the Panthers on Saturday afternoon.
"He's our best forward," Dallas coach Rick Bowness said of Hintz after his Stars defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 on Thursday. "He's one of the top two-way centers in the league, and he is going to continue to get better."
Hintz scored one goal and added three assists on Thursday. Since March 6, he has eight goals and 10 assists in 14 games. But it's more than just Hintz's more obvious contributions.
"You guys see the points and goals," Bowness said. "What we see is how well he plays without the puck and how reliable he is defensively."
Indeed, Hintz plays on Dallas' penalty-kill unit, which is 11-for-11 in the past five games. He also plays on the power-play unit, which went 2-for-3 on Thursday, including two points by Hintz.
The only issue for Hintz this season has been his inability to avoid injuries. He has missed 11 games this season, although he indicated on Thursday that he is now 100 percent.
"It's fine," he said. "I feel good every time I go out there."
The Stars, though, haven't felt good against the Panthers this season, sporting a 1-3-1 record. The only Stars victory in the series came on Feb. 24, when Dallas went on the road and won 3-0. Stars goalie Anton Khudobin had a 43-save shutout in that game.
Despite that loss, the Panthers have been steady all season, sporting a 14-4-3 home record and a 12-7-1 road mark.
This week hasn't been that great for the Panthers, however, as they have lost two straight games to the Carolina Hurricanes, including a 3-0 shutout on Thursday.
"Right now, we're not clicking," Panthers forward Frank Vatrano said. "But it's going to come."
The Panthers aren't totally healthy. Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad is out for the season due to a fractured left leg, and forward Anthony Duclair -- who brings a ton of speed to the attack -- is set to miss one week because of an upper-body injury.
Perhaps in response to the injuries, the Panthers made a trade on Thursday, acquiring defenseman Lucas Carlsson and forward Lucas Wallmark from the Chicago Blackhawks. It's possible they could play for the Panthers on Saturday.
Otherwise, the Panthers will rely on captain Aleksander Barkov and fellow forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Carter Verhaeghe. Barkov and Huberdeau are tied for the team lead with 42 points each. Verhaeghe leads the Panthers in goals scored (17).
In Thursday's loss, Barkov won 20 of his 29 faceoffs, and Verhaeghe had a game-high six shots on goal. And to further prove that there were at least some positives for the Panthers in that game, Florida forward Noel Acciari led all players with four blocked shots. Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar added a game-high seven hits.
The Panthers will likely turn to goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (15-6-2, 2.80 goals-against average) on Saturday. He lost to Carolina 5-2 on Tuesday in his most recent performance, but he is 2-0 with a 2.41 GAA against Dallas this season.
Backup goalie Chris Driedger, who took the loss on Thursday, is 11-5-2 with a 2.05 GAA. He is 2-1 with a 1.34 GAA against Dallas.
For the Stars, Khudobin is 8-9-4 with a 2.40 GAA. Backup Jake Oettinger is 6-5-6 with a 2.29 GAA.
--Field Level Media