The Dallas Stars hold a narrow lead in points on the rest of the West, but have yet to best one of their Central Division foes, having just one chance to try thus far.
The top-six in the Central are 19-4-2 against the Pacific. They are 29-12-4 against the East.
Success in hockey's best division, the evidence suggests, will not come solely from these apparent titans of the league kicking around these other groups. It appears as though it will require success in head-to-head battle.
Enter the Winnipeg Jets tonight and the Minnesota Wild Saturday. The Stars have shown so much early in the year, but the chance to really turn some heads and, more importantly, take points from where they're needed most comes around for them now after a frustrating loss to Toronto Tuesday.
Dallas was not successful against the Central last season and the Jets were a big part in that, taking three of four matchups. Winnipeg has dropped three straight entering this one, and they're hungry for a win.
Puck drops tonight at 7:30pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest.
"We missed too many good opportunities," Lindy Ruff told media after the loss to Toronto. "We had two-on-ones, three-on-ones, our power play had an empty net to put it in. On the rush we probably had four or five point blank ones where we didn't score starting with the Hemsky one."
James Reimer was always there. And when he wasn't the crossbar was.
"It's a tough one. They got a couple of bounces. All our good chances didn't go in."
So they'll try to find better luck dragons tonight.
Patrik Nemeth was loaned to the Texas Stars yesterday and Devin Shore was sent back as well, meaning Patrick Eaves could be ready to return fairly soon, or it could mean that being at home affords the luxury of quick call-ups if the needs arises.
Antti Niemi played well on Tuesday but took the loss on a couple of unfortunate bounces. Kari Lehtonen has played well of late but not particularly so at home over the last 12 months, though his career numbers against the Jets are strong at 5-1-1 and a 1.96 GAA.
We'll find out at morning skate who will grace the Dallas net with their presence.
The Stars did not practice Wednesday so no new line combination information is available at this time, and the defense figures to go on unchanged.
"We wanted to work at getting a bit more pace back in our game, getting quicker," Jets forward Drew Stafford told the Winnipeg Sun yesterday after an intense practice. "It's something we need to get better at. It's held us back these last three games."
The Stars like pace. They're the highest "event" team in the league at even-strength, after all.
The Jets just want to get back to scoring some goals. They averaged 3.18 per game in October en route to 7-3-1 record but have seen their production dry up of late, managing just 10 in five November games including getting shutout at home by the Philadelphia Flyers.
They're getting shots- 28 in each of their last two and 41 and 34 the two before those, out-possessing their opponents but getting little in the way to show for it in the standings.
Winnipeg would like to get their power play going tonight after going just 1-of-14 of their last five games, and Dallas has been more than hospitable in this area surrendering 9 PP goals in their last 8 contests.
From Stars PR:
GROWING UP IN A PRAIRIE TOWN
The Dallas Stars play their first of five games during the 2015-16 season against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night at American Airlines Center. Last season against their Central Division rival, the Stars went 1-3-0 and lost both matchups in Dallas after previously recording one regulation loss at home in team history to the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise. In four games against Winnipeg last season, forward Tyler Seguin tallied four points (1-3=4), forward Jason Spezza notched four points (1-3=4) and Stars captain Jamie Benn posted three points (0-3=3). Defenseman John Klingberg recorded a career-high four points (2-2=4) on Jan. 31, 2015 to help the Stars to a 5-2 win in Winnipeg, the club's lone victory against the Jets last season.
TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS
Stars forward Tyler Seguin has 23 points (9-14=23) this season, currently leading the NHL in assists (14) and sharing the lead in points (23). Seguin saw his eight-game point streak (5-8=13) snapped on Tuesday night against the Maple Leafs. His streak was tied for the second-longest active streak in the NHL and marked his longest point streak since he recorded points in 11 straight games from March 6 - 28, 2014 (7-11=18). The native of Brampton, Ont. has points in six of his last eight games against the Jets, recording 14 points (7-7=14) during that span. In 18 career games against Winnipeg, he has recorded 18 points (9-9=18). Earlier this week, Seguin was named the NHL's Second Star for the week ending Nov. 8, recording seven points (4-3=7) during that span, including a hat trick (3-0=3) against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 3.