With the regular season winding down. the Dallas Stars still need a minor miracle to work their way back into playoff contention. Still, at least over the past week or so, they'e done about all they could.
The Stars have been on a little run, winning 4 of their last 5 games, all of them against the Eastern Conference. They will try to continue both parts of that run tonight as they take on the Washington Capitals to wrap up a five-game road swing.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he didn't think the conference split had anything to do with the Stars recent success. Instead, he credited the improved defensive play, led by the forwards making better decisions.
"Probably the forwards working to get above (the play)," Ruff told the media after the morning skate. "The defending part of the game we've talked about all year. We didn't guess on the offensive side. We're trying to create turnovers by being on the right side of the puck and then them going through us."
The skate was optional after the Stars arrived from Carolina last night, but most players were in attendance, including Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Still, it's tough to figure out exactly what the Stars will look like tonight beyond what Ruff was willing to reveal to the media.
Two little nuggets did come out. The first is that John Klingberg is still unavailable with his upper-body injury suffered at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. The second is that there "might" be a change at forward, which would mean Ryan Garbutt coming back into the lineup, but that decision would not be made until game time.
There's also no word on who the Stars will play in goal. The usual logic of back-to-back nights would suggest that Jhonas Enroth would re-enter the net looking for his first win in a game he started for the Stars, but the Stars have rolled Kari Lehtonen out for both ends of back-to-backs several times this season.
The Capitals are battling a few injuries like most teams in the league at this point, with Jay Beagle. Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov all shelved for the game. Michael Latta is also doubtful, so the Capitals recalled Andre Burakovsky on an emergency basis just in case.
Defenseman Mike Green, who has been battling an upper-body injury, will be back in the lineup, and there is always the uber-dangerous duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to contend with. Ruff said some of the biggest keys to controlling those two, who are right at the top of the NHL's scoring leaders, is to minimize the power play opportunities for the Capitals.
Even with two of the best forwards in the league, the Caps have been struggling a bit recently as they try and hold on to a Wild Card spot in the east. They are 1-2 three games into a five-game homestand.
But coach Barry Trotz is still feeling pretty loose about things.
Trotz called Dallas defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka "the best name in hockey...I think I said that right."— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) March 13, 2015