DALLAS (AP)Jason Robertson is a 40-goal scorer with almost as many assists in his second full NHL season and he doesn’t even have the most points on the top line for the Dallas Stars. Neither does fellow 20-something forward Roope Hintz.
Joe Pavelski is a point-a-game player at 37 years old, with the grizzled veteran leading the most productive trio for the Stars since the team’s first season in Big D nearly three decades ago.
”That line has carried us all year,” coach Rick Bowness said.
All the way to a wild-card spot, though the Stars are the only one of the 16 teams heading into the playoffs that has been outscored this season.
Instead of playing out the end of the three-year contract he signed with Dallas in 2019 after spending his first 13 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Pavelski has 81 points (27 goals, career-high 54 assists) and has already signed a $5.5 million deal for next season.
”He’s just adapted to playing at this certain age,” said the 22-year-old Robertson, only the fourth Dallas skater with a 40-goal season. ”And it’s kind of inspiring to see that he’s still going and he’s still pushing and still keeping keeping up with everyone.”
Dallas closes out the regular season Friday night at home against Anaheim, still with a chance to finish ahead of Nashville for the Western Conference’s top wild-card spot.
With a point against the Ducks, Pavelski will finish with the first point-a-game average in his career. He is already the oldest American player in NHL history to reach 80 points, and the first 37 or older since Teemu Selanne with the Ducks in 2010-11.
”It’s incredible,” captain Jamie Benn said. ”Goes to show you what kind of professional he is and how seriously he takes his job but at the same time has a lot of fun with it. Great for us, our group, to see.”
At a combined 230 points, the Pavelski-Robinson-Hintz line is four points shy of matching Mike Modano, Russ Courtnall and Dave Gagner, who had 234 in 1993-94 when there were 84 regular-season games.
Palveski, Robertson (78 points) and Hintz (71 points) are the only the fourth trio of 70-point scorers for Dallas in the same season. The last had been 2017-18 when Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov combined for 229 points.
”They have an impact for each other and they trust each other, and they know where each other is going,” Bowness said. ”So has Joe had a positive impact on Roope and Jason? Absolutely. Roope’s had a positive impact on those two. So has Jason. You need the right fit … and it worked with those three.”
That trio is a combined plus-42 this season. The former top line of Benn, Seguin and Radulov are at minus-54, though the 35-year-old Radulov is no longer paired up with the former All-Stars who have both had injury issues in recent seasons.
Even without a goal the past nine games, Pavelski has a six-game assist streak that included two in the playoff-clinching overtime loss to Arizona on Wednesday. Neither Robertson or Hintz had a goal against the Coyotes, but in the nine games before that they combined to score 15 of 20 Dallas goals.
Hintz has 37 goals and 34 assists this season, after the 25-year-old Finn had 43 points in 41 games last year while playing through a serious hip injury that made his time on the ice sporadic.
Robertson has 124 points (57 goals, 67 assists) in his 127 career NHL games.His 40-goal season is the first for Dallas since Seguin had 40 in 2017-18, with Modano’s team-record 50 in 1993-94 and Benn’s 41 in 2015-16 the others.
”He has had a lot of big goals for us this year,” Seguin said. ”He has a lot of confidence and is massive for our team and our organization.”
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