Tonight is a very important night for the Dallas Stars. They need a win against Columbus, and they'll be scoreboard watching as the Nashville Predators take on the Detroit Red Wings. If the Red Wings secure a single point tonight, then any postseason hopes the Stars may have had will completely vanish.
This could have been avoided with a win in San Jose, when the Stars held a late lead in the biggest game of the year before luck finally caught up to them. While the Red Wings appear poised to hit the ice in top gear against a Predators team already thinking about tee times next week, the Stars must approach tonight's game without thinking about what is happening in Detroit.
The bad news? Chris Mason (3.79 GAA, .848 save %) is starting in net. So...welp.
Make tonight's game the best game of the season. Make a statement. Let the hockey world know that while the game in San Jose was painful, this isn't a Dallas Stars team that will back down when adversity is at its worst.
As for morning skate, the biggest news coming out of the American Airlines Center is that Alex Goligoski has been playing the past few games with a "spider fracture" in his foot. After missing this morning's skate, Goligoski is expected to play tonight and should be right back with Brenden Dillon on the second pairing.
"He'll be OK tonight," said coach Glen Gulutzan. "He's got the same thing that Ray Whitney had early in the year. He's kind of got a little of a spider fracture in his foot there that he's been playing with for the last three or four games. It's just a pain management thing for him, but he'll play tonight."
Goligoski gets a lot of heat, deserved and undeserved, for his play since coming to Dallas. This has been a tough year for him, but he's rebounded spectacularly from a poor start. No. 12 in scoring in the league among all defenseman, with three goals and 24 assists (which is tied for No. 4 among d-men) he's become the catalyst for the Stars offense from the blueline and has certainly benefited from the new look the Stars have shown since the trade deadline.
So, it would hurt to lose him.
Staying on the injury front, Alex Chiasson will miss another game with an injured shoulder. Judging by how close he was for tonight's game, there's a good chance he'll at least be on the ice for the season finale against Detroit.
Lines this morning were the same as they have been, with one minor exception: Reilly Smith was back on the third line with Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt. It will be interesting to see if Gulutzan quickly goes back to the configuration that worked so well in San Jose, with Roussel joining Eakin and Garbutt for what became an incredibly effective combination against a very good team.
The Stars have had issues with the Blue Jackets in recent seasons, so this is not one to take lightly. Sergei Bobrovsky is a likely Vezina candidate and this is a very stingy defensive team that is playing with the same heart and determination as the Stars.
No matter what happens tonight in Detroit, this is a game the Stars much approach with the mentality of a Game 7. This is an elimination game and this is when the Stars' ultimate test will truly come. They stumbled against San Jose, despite a valiant effort. How will they respond tonight at home?
Tune in at 7:30 sharp to find out.
Remember, tonight's game is being broadcast on 570 KLIF instead of 1310 The Ticket.