Dallas Stars Morning Skate: Kari Lehtonen Will Lead Team In First Win-and-In Game Against St. Louis Blues

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The Stars starting goalie is no surprise for their first attempt at clinching a playoff berth.

We have not quite reached the point where I can break out my favorite Eminem lyric for big-time sports events. After all, the Dallas Stars technically have two shots to clinch their first playoff berth in six years, not just one.

But that bid, that elusive, ridiculous spot in hockey's second season, is so close to their grasp that they can practically taste it.

A win tonight against the St. Louis Blues gets them in, and the Stars are unsurprisingly turning to Kari Lehtonen to get them there. The big Finn has been the backbone of the team since he took over the starting spot in the fall of 2010, and it's only appropriate that they lean on him here.

In a nice little surprise, Ray Whitney was spotted on the ice at the morning skate, though he was being used as an extra forward and will not be in the lineup tonight. Lindy Ruff said after the skate that Whitney's status for Sunday's potentially epic game against his old Phoenix Coyotes mates will be determined closer to that contest.

What might look different tonight is the second power play unit. The power play has been a real thorn in the side of the Stars recently, only scoring on Wednesday after Ruff pulled all sorts of unexpected strings.

Outside of the power play, the lines and presumably the defensive pairs look the same as they've been for the last stretch. This is the lineup that got the Stars to the point they are now - this is the lineup they are going to try to ride into the promised land.

The Blues, meanwhile, are both banged up and mad after a rough game last night against the Minnesota Wild. Wild forward Mike Rupp is assuredly and deservedly going to be suspended for his illegal check to the head of T.J. Oshie.

Oshie is almost certainly out for tonight. Vladimir Tarasenko, Derek Roy, Vladimir Sobotka, David Backes and Brenden Morrow are all also definitely out for the Blues, who called up Ty Rattie, Adam Cracknell and Keith Aucoin from the AHL to plug some holes.

It's almost enough to make you think it's a trap.

St. Louis has plenty to play for - the Colorado Avalanche, PDO wunderkinds defying all trends about possession statistics, could take over the top spot in the Central Division if the Blues lose in regulation while the Avs pick up two points against the San Jose Sharks.

This game also marks the return of Steve Ott to the American Airlines Center for the first time since he was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for Derek Roy in the summer of 2012. Because of the lockout, the Sabres did not play the Stars at all in the 2012-13 season, and Ott was moved to the St. Louis Blues just before the Sabres came to Dallas this time around.

The Stars have run nice little video tributes to other long-time former players who have come through this season, most notably Morrow, and you'd expect they would have something similar for Ott tonight. As the final game of the regular season, it is also Fan Appreciation Night with its myriad of giveaways.

The best present for the fans, though, would be that playoff berth all wrapped up.

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