Remaining this regular season the Dallas Stars face an Arizona Coyote team they cannot seem to figure out, an impossibly hard back-to-back out in Southern California, a desperate Avalanche team, and the Nashville Predators. Twice.
There's no safe habor in that storm. Just a lot of boats tied together.
The two with the Predators, starting tonight, sticks out in particular- After all, that's starting to look like a viable first-round matchup.
The Chicago Blackhawks are nose-diving while the Predators ascend at record speed. The Blues have won eight of ten and appear intent to take the division. The Stars lack Tyler Seguin and Jason Demers. The result? The Stars could face Nashville in a 2v3 matchups rather than Chicago or St. Louis.
So this one will go a long way- Not only in deciding the matchup itself, but possible posturing and mental preparation if such an event should materialize.
"They don't get much bigger than this," I think, is the sports cliche you're looking for.
Mike Heika reported lines as such yesterday at practice-
Jamie Benn-Cody Eakin-Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark-Jason Spezza-Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel/Travis Moen-Radek Faksa-Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour-Vernon Fiddler-Patrick Eaves
The breaking news there being that Brett Ritchie has had a lower-body injury come up unexpectedly and is questionnable to play this evening.
The good news, however, is that Kris Russell appears ready to return from his foot injury. Lindy Ruff called it "a good chance."
Kris Russell-Alex Goligoski
Johnny Oduya-Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth-John Klingberg
Jordie Benn practiced with Jamie Oleksiak and could potentially sit this one out after a tough moment or two Saturday in San Jose.
Meanwhile- Nashville has, quite simply, been the best team in the league over the last two months. 15-4-5 since February 6th to be exact. A monster run- Points in an incredible 20 of 24 games. That's seen them roar up the standings in the West to threaten Chicago and Dallas for a spot in the division- Sights set much higher than just a wildcard berth.
They may not be coached by Barry Trotz anymore, but the strength of their team when they're good still lies where you might suspect- In those 15 wins they only once failed to hold their opponnents to two goals or fewer.
That's a recipe that works in the playoffs. Winning tonight is party of a recipe that would help the Stars avoid two styles combining that might make a most unpleasant fight for those in green.
Their defensive ways wavered briefly last night as the desperate Avalanche leapt to 4-1 lead heading into the third period, but the Perds tightened up and nearly came back, falling 4-3 in the end.
The Predators seemingly did Dallas a favor by not earning the two points that looked gettable on paper, but in doing so simultaneously hurt the home team tonight by getting their MVP goaltender pulled early enough to play again tonight- And with a chip on his shoulder.
Who Rinne will be matched by is anyone's guess after a strong performance from Antti Niemi Saturday against the Sharks. Kari Lehtonen appears to be the Stars' number-one guy right now but a chance to get them both rolling could be a tempting proposition. Using them both in the first round does not seem particularly far-fetched given the momentum swings the playoffs can offer.
The Perds lineup:
From Stars PR:
TO CATCH A PREDATOR
The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators face off for the fourth of five times during the 2015-16 regular season. The Stars have won four of their last five overall games against the Predators (4-1-0), including two-straight wins at American Airlines Center. In the most recent meeting of the season on March 1 at Bridgestone Arena, the Predators defeated the Stars, 5-3, to snap Dallas' four-game winning streak against them. Forward Antoine Roussel registered two points (1-1=2), with forwards Jason Spezza (1-0=1) and Vernon Fiddler (1-0=1) potting the other goals in the contest for the Stars. On Dec. 31, Dallas recorded a 5-1 victory in the only game played so far this season at American Airlines Center. Four Stars skaters posted multi-point games including defenseman John Klingberg (0-2=2), captain Jamie Benn (1-1=2) and forward Tyler Seguin (2-0=2).
ALES IN WONDERLAND
Stars forward Ales Hemsky registered an assist (0-1=1) on Saturday afternoon against the San Jose Sharks and now has points in four consecutive games (2-2=4) and has 10 points (4-6=10) over his last 10 games. Hemsky's four-game point streak matches his longest this season, which he set earlier this month when he recorded points in four consecutive contests (2-4=6) from March 6 - March 12. In 32 games since returning from injury on Jan. 15, Hemsky has tallied 21 (10-11=21) of his 34 (13-21=34) points this season. Over the course of his NHL career, the forward has skated in 37 games against the Predators and has recorded 28 points (11-17=28).