The Dallas Stars have lost five of their last seven games. The Phoenix Coyotes have won five of their last seven, and have points in six of them. Two teams moving in opposite directions got even further apart last night when Dave Tippett's bunch took a 3-2 shootout decision in New Jersey.
The Stars now trail by five points. On March 27th. That math is getting pretty tough.
Tonight Dallas tries to bounce back from a challenging night in Chicago that featured a 42-27 shot advantage for a home team that badly out-chanced their opposition. Two goals and six shots for Ryan Garbutt comprised the lone bright spot in otherwise forgettable evening as the Stars dropped their 16th game of the season to Central Division competition.
They'll try to compose themselves while Lindy Ruff re-composes his lines.
Ray Whitney is doubtful tonight with an injury, and it sounds like another bug could be making its way through the locker room at the most inopportune of times. Erik Cole will also miss another game with his nebulous upper body concerns.
That leaves Chris Mueller and Dustin Jeffrey filling key spots, along with Colton Sceviour. Peverley, Cole and Whitney now comprise an entire second-line caliber gaping hole in the Stars' roster.
Dallas is 1-2-0 this season against Nashville, managing just a single goal in both lopsided losses (3-1, 4-1) .
So it will be up to Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn to break free of the trappings that come with a stingy Nashville Predator team.
A team, by the way, that scored six times last night, shellacking the Buffalo Sabres 6-1 at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators, bereft of much for which to play at nine points back of a wild card spot, have been pretty effective as of late. They had little trouble with the Blackhawks with a 2-0 win last week. They took Colorado to a shootout before losing, and they scored six on the Flames as well, before scorching Buffalo last night.
That's 18 goals in their last four games. That offensive confidence comes to the American Airlines Center tonight.
And having played Hutton last night against the Sabres, Trotz has saved Pekka Rinne especially for Dallas Friday.
Nashville won't make the playoffs again this season, but they're challenging teams on the road like a team who would have- 6-2-2 in their last ten away from Bridgestone Arena, including two wins in Chicago and points earned in St. Louis and Minnesota.
Rookie D Seth Jones has missed two games with concussion-like symptoms.
Kari Lehtonen has to be the man in net for Dallas moving forward, but with so many back-to-back sets remaining, including this one (@ St. Louis Saturday) it's anyone's guess how Ruff manipulates his puck-stoppers.
So while Phoenix comes back from a three-game road trip that included a back-to-back at Pittsburgh with six of the seven points they sought, the Stars find their margin of error at pretty much zero, here. It's get points every night. Or else.