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Panthers, Stars Meet in Potential Stanley Cup Final Preview

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New Florida Panthers forward Kyle Okposo practices with the team for the first time on Monday as Paul Maurice looks on. Okposo makes his Florida debut tonight in Dallas. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

The Dallas Stars came within two wins of facing the Florida Panthers in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final.

Could the two meet up in the championship round this year?

Coming into tonight’s showdown between the Panthers and Stars, both teams are atop the NHL standings.

Florida leads all teams with 92 points — the same amount which was good enough to get it in to the playoffs last year; Dallas is fourth with 89.

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“Great team. Well coached, great pedigree going to the Stanley Cup Final last year,” said Dallas coach Pete DeBoer, who is close friends with Florida’s Paul Maurice. “They play with a real identity and have been on a real heater here as far as winning goes. You are not going to get a tougher opponent at this point in the season than these guys rolling in here. It’s a great test for us.”

Said Maurice: “They come with speed, skill and they’re a veteran team. They play a smart, hard game. I think our two teams are only different in systems, but not necessarily in style. They won’t cheat the game. We won’t cheat the game. They are capable of scoring goals in structure.”

The two teams, who will play each other in Sasha Barkov’s hometown of Tampere, Finland, next season, are playing great.

Dallas has won five straight; the Panthers have won seven of eight and 17 of their past 20.

THE GAME

Kyle Okposo will make his debut with the Panthers tonight as he replaces Evan Rodrigues on the third line.

Rodrigues left Saturday’s 5-1 win over Calgary after blocking a shot in the final minute of the second. Maurice said he may play Thursday at Carolina.

As for Okposo, Maurice said he hopes he “has fun.”

“I am excited for him,” Maurice said. “It is going to be a change it is for him. He’s only been on three teams, spent eight years in Buffalo. He was the captain so, you (carry) a lot of weight. Then you come to a team, you’re not the captain, it’s an older team, and you can just go play hockey. You don’t carry the burden of making sure you point out the mistakes to the young guys, make sure everything is right. You can just focus on yourself.’’

— Starting goalies tonight: Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Jake Oettinger.

— On Saturday night, Dallas beat the host Los Angeles Kings. It was the 600th win of DeBoer’s NHL career, one which started with the Panthers in 2008.

DeBoer spent three seasons with the Panthers before being fired in 2011. He was quickly hired by New Jersey and took the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final that season. DeBoer also coached San Jose and Vegas.

“It’s a big number and, when I was with Florida, I wasn’t sure I was going to get to 60 much less 600,” he said with a laugh. “There was a lot going on. When you look back at your journey, you have a much better appreciation and perspective than you are in the middle of it.”

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ DALLAS STARS

  • When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: AmericanAirlines Center, Dallas
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Local Odds — Stars Favored: Money Line (-115); Puck line (-1.5, +210); Over/Under 6.5 (+105/-130)
  • Last Season: Dallas won 2-0
  • This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Stars 4 (Dec. 6). At Dallas: Tuesday.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 25-21-2, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday @ Carolina, 7 p.m.

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (44-17-4) LINEUP

10 Vladimir Tarasenko // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart

23 Carter Verhaeghe // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk

27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 8 Kyle Okposo

21 Nick Cousins // 82 Kevin Stenlund // 94 Ryan Lomberg

91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson // 41 Gustav Forsling 

77 Niko Mikkola // 62 Brandon Montour

28 Josh Mahura // 7 Dmitry Kulikov

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

41 Anthony Stolarz

Scratched: Steven Lorentz, Jonah Gadjovich, Tobias Bjornfot

Injured: Aaron Ekblad (LBI), Evan Rodrigues (LBI)

PROJECTED DALLAS STARS (40-17-9)  LINEUP

21 Jason Robertson // 24 Roope Hintz // 16 Joe Pavelski

27 Mason Marchment //95 Matt Duchene // 18 Sam Steel

14 Jamie Benn // 53 Wyatt Johnston // 11 Logan Stankoven

10 Ty Dellandrea // 12 Radek Faksa // 15 Craig Smith

55 Thomas Harley // 4 Miro Heiskanen

23 Esa Lindell // 3 Chris Tanev

20 Ryan Suter // 2 Jani Hakanpaa

29 Jake Oettinger

41 Scott Wedgewood

Scratched: Nils Lundkvist

Injured: Evgenii Dadonov (lower-body fracture), Tyler Seguin (lower body)

Dallas Stars lines courtesy NHL.com

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