In the Eastern Conference, the difference between 4th and 9th places is 16 points on Sunday morning. In the West, the difference between the 4th place Dallas Stars and 9th place is two points. Just two.
As such, for what feels like the 10th game in a row, the Stars and their opponents (the Los Angeles Kings today) will push their chips all in again and see who comes out on top. With a win the Stars can inch closer toward shifting the conversation from "who's right behind us?" to "look how close San Jose is out in front." If they lose the Kings jump over them into 4th place.
It's more than that, however. The Stars currently hold the ROW (regulation + overtime wins) tiebreaker over the Kings, 32 to 31. The Kings can tie the Stars today with a win in that category. Los Angeles owns the next tie breaker: points earned in head to head match ups. They've collected five from Dallas versus only four for the Stars. The Stars can take the lead in both tie breakers with a regulation win today.
That may seem like tedious minutia, but can you rule out the importance of such trifles down the stretch? Not in this conference.
The Kings have moved on since their loss to Dallas six days ago with wins over Detroit and Columbus, both on the road. They've returned to their stingy ways, allowing a total of three goals in those two contests, and they'll try to keep the total down against Dallas this afternoon.
The Stars won their last game here in Dallas, a 2-1 decision back in January during the Kings big slide. They're a different team now.
Don't forget the time change, and be at the AAC in time for the 2:00pm faceoff.
Continued after the jump...
The only news for Stars fans coming into this one is the absence of Adam Burish. He suffered another lower body injury a couple of weeks ago while blocking a shot and has suffered ever since. The pain and immobility that came with it has finally gotten to him and the coaching staff has elected to sit him for the time being.
So Krys Barch or Brian Sutherby will get back into the lineup on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Nick Grossman looked good in his return against Minnesota, though the Wild did not do much serious testing of the Dallas defense. Mark Fistric sat out that game and Crawford has shown a propensity in the past to roll with whatever's working at the time so don't be surprised to see Fistric out again, but Jeff Woywitka and Karlis Skrastins are also possibilities.
Kari Lehtonen, of course, will be in net.
The Kings are 9-1-3 in their last 13 road games and have killed 17 penalties in a row, so they come in here confident and very capable. Dallas will probably need to end that PK streak to take points out of this one.
Meanwhile the Stars will want to give L.A. fewer chances on the man advantage than they did last Monday night when they surrendered 9:00 of PP time including a major penalty.
LA Kings insider brings us a view of the Stars from the mind of the Kings head coach, Terry Murray...
"We have to be better in our own end tomorrow against that Dallas team. They’re a real pressure-up team. They come hard with three forwards below the goal line. They pressure down the boards with their defense. We have to be able to manage the puck under those pressure situations, and just get some cleaner breakouts on a more consistent basis. I felt we struggled with that in the early part of the game, and it cost us the game at the end of the day, with the turnovers and the lack of reads that are necessarily against the kind of pressure."
Jonathan Quick will be in net for the Kings. He's 1-0-0 against Dallas this year, stopping 27 of 28 shots faced.
The Stars are in 4th place this morning. The 5th, 6th and 7th place teams play today. Dallas can finish anywhere from 4th to 7th, but as usual, it's best to throw the scoreboard watching out the window and just go out and take it.
We'll see you in the GDT here at DBD and hopefully at the AAC as well.