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NHL: Dallas Stars @ Colorado Avalanche preview  

The Dallas Stars travel to Colorado Avalanche on Sunday for a top of the Central Division clash.  

It will be the second time in a week that the two have met with the Avalanche prevailing on November 22nd 3-2 in a shoot-out.   

Despite the defeat, Dallas (12-5-4) have held on to top spot in the division, currently sitting five points ahead of second placed Colorado (11-6-1) who have three games in hand.    

The Stars are +125 to win the game and +275 to top the division while the Avalanche are -145 and -120 respectively.   

Avalanche banged up

The Avalanche are currently one of the most banged up teams in the NHL and without several key players including Captain Gabriel Landeskog, forwards Darren Helm and Valeri Nichushkin and defencemen Bowen Byran and Kurtis MacDermid.    

Despite that, the Avalanche have gone 7-3-0 in their last ten games proving they still have the depth which helped them win the cup for the first time since 2001.    

Colorado have also lent heavily on their superstars in the early season to carry the burden and that they have with Mikko Rantanen scoring 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists), Nathan MacKinnon 27 points (five goals, 22 assists) and Cale Makar 21 points (six goals, 15 assists).   

Artturi Lehkonen who was acquired ahead of the trade deadline last season and scored the championship winning-goal has also stepped up again scoring 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) which includes seven points (three goals, four assists) in the last five games.   

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DeBoer impact

Rick Bowness (now of Winnipeg Jets) stood down as head coach of the Dallas Stars following three seasons in charge in the off-season and was replaced by Peter DeBoer who was fired by the Vegas Golden Knights.   

Dallas claimed the first wild card spot into the playoffs last season with a 46-30-6 record (.598 points-percentage) while DeBoer's Golden Knights (43-31-8) missed the playoffs by three points, in large part down to Vegas' significant injury list.   

Despite the fair excuse, DeBoer was replaced by Bruce Cassidy in Vegas and quickly snapped up by Dallas where over 20 games he has increased their points-percentage to .667 and their goal-differential from a -8 to +22.   

54-year-old DeBoer has coached in the NHL since 2008 and taken charge of Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, San Jose Sharks, Golden Knights and now the Stars.   

He has twice been to the Stanley Cup Final, losing both times in 2012 with the Devils and 2016 with the Sharks.   

Robertson shining 

DeBoer's strong start has been helped by the sparkling form of 23-year-old Jason Robertson who leads the NHL with 18 goals and is just one point behind Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) for points with 34 in 21 games.   

Robertson, who has 76 goals in 149 regular season games, scored twice against the Avalanche in the first meeting including the game-tying goal with just 26 seconds remaining.   

+700 to win the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal-scorer, Robertson will again be the major threat to the Avalanche along with Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn who each have recorded more than 20 points in Stars' 21 games.   

Powerplay battle

The Avalanche have the best powerplay in the NHL firing at 34.4% while the Stars have the second best successfully converting 30.0% of their chances and so special teams will be a key battle.   

Dallas hold the upper hand on the penalty-kill going 83.5% which is fourth in the league. In comparison the Avalanche have struggled somewhat, killing 77.4% which ranks 21st in the NHL.   

Another crucial area where Dallas have an advantage going into the game is in face-offs winning 55% of draws (3rd in the NHL) compared to Colorado's 44% which is last in the league.   

Georgiev proving to be a number-one   

After winning the Stanley Cup, the Avalanche made the difficult decision to let goalie Darcy Kumeper move on to the Washington Capitals, opting for a cheaper option in net to help with their wage cap.    

26-year-old Alexandar Georgiev was acquired from the New York Rangers to be his replacement and he has proven up to the starter role going 9-2-1 with a .929 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against-average (GAA).   

Georgiev has never started more than 32 games over five seasons with the Rangers, but is set to smash that barrier this season.   

At the opposite end of the ice, 23-year-old Jake Oettinger has continued his rise to stardom going 8-2-3 with a .917 save percentage and 2.52 GAA.    

Both likely to start the crucial clash on Sunday, the better performer may just be the determining factor as to who comes out victorious.

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