Newly recalled Stars forward Denis Gurianov made his NHL season debut on Thursday night, earning second-line minutes in his second career game. Gurianov started the season with AHL affiliate Texas before getting called up on Wednesday afternoon.
In a corresponding move, center Justin Dowling was sent to Texas.
“He’s a true winger,” Stars coach Jim Montgomery said of Gurianov. “Dowling played really well for us, we’re really happy about what he did. But he’s a natural center, and we felt we needed a winger.”
Gurianov slotted into the lineup with Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza, adding speed and shooting to the pair of veterans. Earlier this season, Gurianov had a six-game goal streak in the AHL and totaled 12 points in just 11 games.
Montgomery said Gurianov’s goal-scoring ability fits well with Spezza’s possession style.
“He’s speed on the outside,” Montgomery said. “He’s a guy that stretches the ice with his speed. When I talk about true center, Dowling is a puck possession guy, like Spezza is. So Dowling playing with Spezza probably isn’t a great match. You know what I mean? Whereas a guy that can get to open space and can trigger a puck, one-time a puck like Gurianov playing with Spezza is a better match.”
Gurianov was a healthy scratch during the AHL playoffs last season, but has played much better this season. In addition to his scoring, Texas coach Derek Laxdal said he’s improved his defensive game as well, including his backchecking.
Khudobin starts: Goaltender Anton Khudobin earned the start in net against San Jose after two stellar performances on the most recent road trip. Khudobin made 31 saves in a win over Toronto on Nov. 1 and 33 in an overtime loss in Boston on Monday night.
“He’s been playing well,” Montgomery said. “Columbus was in our zone a lot, so just want to give [Ben Bishop] the opportunity to regroup, get a practice in him before he faces Nashville on Saturday.”
Entering Thursday night, Khudobin had stopped the last 55 shots on goal at even-strength he’s faced and had not given up an even-strength goal since Oct. 16 in New Jersey. His .957 even-strength save percentage was fourth in the NHL among goalies with at least four starts.
The Sharks ended the streak with a first-period goal by Timo Meier.
Stars lineup Thursday against San Jose:
Devin Shore – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Denins Gurianov
Blake Comeau – Radek Faksa – Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark – Jason Dickinson – Gemel Smith
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen – Roman Polak
Dillon Heatherington – Julius Honka
Scratches: Alexander Radulov (lower-body), Brett Ritchie (upper-body inflammation), Marc Methot (lower-body).
Injured reserve: Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), Connor Carrick (foot).