Stars vs Oilers: 3 things to know ahead of Game 5

Chris Tanev’s status will be a major factor in the Stars ability to slow the Edmonton offense.

DALLAS — As the Western Conference Final returns to Dallas, the Stars have earned back home-ice advantage with a split in Edmonton, and now have Games 5 and 7 at the American Airlines Center, as they look to get the upper hand on the Oilers in the best-of-three that remains.

Here are three things to watch for in Game 5:

Chris Tanev’s injury status

When Stars defenseman Chris Tanev left Game 4, it changed the Stars in a drastic way. Their second-best blueliner, hobbling up the tunnel in significant pain, spelled trouble for Dallas. And their defense struggled as a result, giving up five-unanswered goals to lose the second game in Edmonton, 5-2.

Things got worse for Stars fans when pictures surfaced of Tanev walking through the airport in a walking boot, leading many to wonder if the puck he took to the ankle while blocking a shot might have cost him the balance of his postseason.

But after saying they would need to get some “pictures” on his ankle to get a clearer picture, Stars head coach Pete DeBoer sounded decidedly more positive at Dallas’ morning skate on Friday. DeBoer declared Tanev to be a game-time decision, but said he was “optimistic” about the possibility that Tanev could play.

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That feels like a very good development for Dallas, whether he plays tonight or not. The fact that Tanev playing is at least a possibility in DeBoer’s mind, means that the disaster scenario of Tanev being lost for the postseason would ostensibly be off the table — and Dallas may well get him back, be it Friday, Sunday for Game 6 in Edmonton, or at some other near-off date.

But in order for Dallas to have any near-off dates to worry about, they may need Tanev to get there. His play against the Oilers stellar offensive talents like Conor McDavid and Leon Draisatl has been pivotal to the Stars success in this series.

WFAA’s Mike Leslie reported that Tanev was seen not in a boot at the AAC, but rather in dress shoes.

The Oilers goaltender

Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner was supposed to be one of the weak links for the Oilers in these playoffs. And while there have been some moments where that has reared it’s head — Game 3 when he gave up four goals on just 21 Stars shots for instance — he’s been pretty solid in this series.  Never more so than in Game 4, when after giving up two goals in the Stars first four shots, he helped shut Dallas down for the balance of the game, as Edmonton evened the series.

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Skinner gave up 12 goals over the span of just 58 shots (a ghastly .793 save percentage), during Games 1, 2, and 3 against Vancouver, and didn’t play in Games 4 and 5 as a result. 

Could Dallas’ high-powered offense force him into another spate of rough play on the back end of this series?

Is home ice finally an advantage for Dallas?

The Stars have been famously outstanding on the road in these playoffs, mirroring their cross-town brethren the Rangers playoff run to a World Series Championship, going 6-2 away from the AAC in these playoffs.  But puzzlingly, Dallas is just 3-5 at home in the postseason.

If a trip to the Stanley Cup Final is to materialize for the Stars, they need to buck that trend. And they need to do it tonight.

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