The Winnipeg Jets look like they might be caught after all.
Just not by the Dallas Stars.
Winnipeg was the target of the hard charging Stars until Lindy Ruff's bunch lost two of three to Edmonton and then Calgary. Now the Los Angeles Kings and their 88 points look poised to overtake the Jets, losers of two straight and now without Dustin Byfuglien for four games after a reckless cross-check.
The Stars sit somewhere further back - with 84 points behind the San Jose Sharks (85), Los Angeles Kings (90), Jets (90) and Flames (91). To make the playoffs they would need to win out and pray for the Jets and Kings to nearly lose out.
Aside from all of that, which is not exactly rosy, there are these five games to play and intrigue must be sought in other avenues, as Stars fans know from entirely too much experience in five of the last six years.
Intrigue like the possible return of Valeri Nichushkin.
Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie have been returned to the Texas Stars to help them with their playoff push - leaving Travis Moen and Colton Sceviour as probables to get some regular time in here as the season winds down. Or at least one of them.
Nichushkin returned from his conditioning stint in Cedar Park Thursday and joined the team for a full practice, skating on the fourth line. He recorded three assists in his last game with Texas, hasn't played in the NHL since November 6th, and had surgery on his hip on November 18th.
A disappointing use of the second year in his precious and short entry-level contract. He'll get five games, possibly, to show a little something to Jim Nill, and then he'll be "soon-to-be-RFA" Val Nichushkin with one precious season remaining to earn the Stars' trust.
The time does fly.
"He's real excited to be back playing," Ruff told the DMN. "To be back here and have the opportunity to play."
That was a hockey quote.
They'll deal with a St. Louis Blues team that has plenty to play for down the stretch. They sit just two points back of the Nashville Predators with a game in hand, chasing first place in the division while trying to keep the Blackhawks (98 points) at bay from behind.
The Stars couldn't contain the Calgary Flames on Monday. The Blues dominated them on Thursday - holding them to just 18 shots while posting 43(!) of their own in an easy 4-1 before boarding a plane for Dallas.
They're hoping that will help level things for them as the enter the post-season after a bit of a rocky stretch, including losing five of their six games prior to Thursdays.
Jake Allen saved 17 of 18 in a relatively boring outing last night, so he could start again, but the Blues have no problems rolling with Brian Elliott between the pipes behind a stingy defensive group.
St. Louis will likely be without their leading scorer in Vladamir Tarasenko. The forward was injured Monday against the Vancovuer Canucks and is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Good news for Stars fans, and the way-too-obvious counterpoint to Val's return for broadcasts.
"Lower-body, day-to-day," Ken Hitchcock told the media of Tarasenko. "That's what you're gonna get for the next four months, so get used to it. It's playoff time. But he's out tomorrow." (referring to the Calgary game) [NHL.com]
Four months. Evidently Ken Hitchcock is going to make his team play playoff hockey until August 2nd.
The Dallas Stars play host to the St. Louis Blues on Friday night in the fifth and final contest scheduled between the two clubs this season. The Stars are 2-1-1 against St. Louis so far in the 2014-15 campaign and are looking for the team's first win over the Blues at home this season. Dallas forward Jason Spezza paces the club with four assists and is tied for first with four points (0-4=4) against the Blues this season. Spezza comes into Friday's tilt having registered seven points (1-6=7) over his last five games against the St. Louis and has earned nine points (2-7=9) in 12 career games against them.