The Dallas Stars once held a double digit point lead over the San Jose Sharks. Now at 97 points, the Sharks hold a ten point lead on the Stars and can effectively end their season and officially claim a playoff spot all in one stroke tonight at home.
Dallas, having watched the Ducks move to 93 points with five games to play, must practically win out to hope for a chance at a tie-breaking scenario that might get them the eight seed. They're on a 1-3-3 slide and haven't a game won in 14 days, most recently losing to the Coyotes in the skills competition despite grossly outplaying and outshouting Phoenix on Tuesday night. The math is getting ugly and the desperation level should be at an all time high tonight for Dallas.
Win or lose, the Stars will win the season series with the Sharks, already posting a 3-1-1 mark against them this year, and they'll also still own the Sharks in San Jose. The Stars have won an absolutely dominant 11 of their 16 at the Tank.
These clubs have played what are essentially five one goal games this season, no matter what the scoreboard said at the end of their last meeting in Dallas. Two empty net goals handed the Sharks a 6-3 victory but the game was 4-3 with two minutes left and the Stars failed to convert on back to back power plays to end the game, which is ironic given that the Stars PP is 33.3% against San Jose this season.
This one, beyond the obvious post-season implications, has the potential to boil over emotionally given the the suspension handed to Dany Heatley for going out of his way to maliciously deliver an elbow to a Stars player and the head hunting hit delivered to Tomas Vincour by Douglas Murray that went uncalled and un-reviewed. The Stars will have to keep those kinds of extracurricular activities out of their game tonight if they're to hold on to a glimmer of hope moving forward where the playoffs are concerned.
Adam Burish will NOT be back tonight...
Continued after the jump
Adam Burish said before the Phoenix game that he felt great and "would play if they'd let me," which of course "they" wouldn't. He had skated hard at morning skate and things were sounding promising. Then reports came on Wednesday evening that not only would he not play in San Jose but he didn't even skate at all.
Was a setback suffered? Mike Heika speculates a fracture of some kind is to blame somewhere. If that's the case (and I've suffered a stress fracture before) then he shouldn't have been doing anything lately. Either way, no Burish.
Karlis Skrastins is another story. He skated again on Wednesday and is said to be a real possibility for tonight in San Jose. That would likely put either Mark Fistric or Brad Lukowich out of the lineup to make room. The guess is here is Lukowich but Marc Crawford has surprised before. If Skrastins is 100%(ish) then his penalty kill minutes will be needed against a Sharks unit that has scored on 10 of their last 31 PP opportunities.
Nicklas Grossman remains in Dallas rehabbing his knee.
Kari Lehtonen will make his 17th consecutive start in net.
San Jose had scored a power play goal in nine straight games before their win in Phoenix last week. They've scored 30 goals in their last seven overall, which is well over FOUR a game. They are absolutely rolling right now and are poised to take over the Western Conference's second seed from the sputtering Detroit Red Wings who allowed St. Louis to put 10 on them last night.
The Stars need an even start in the first period, surviving the storm and heading to the dressing room without a deficit. They can build from there and have traditionally had strong second periods, including building a two goal lead on the Sharks when last they met before two unforced errors (penalties) allowed the Sharks to step back into the game. Couple those unforced, unnecessary penalties with a Jeff Woywitka giveaway and Dallas essentially handed the Sharks that last game. They'll need to clean up those mistakes this time.
Visit Fear The Fin for your Sharks needs, should they (doubtfully) arise.
There is no more time, and there is no more analysis necessary. There can only be W's, or else.