With two games left in the regular season, the Dallas Stars are two victories away from locking up both the Central Division and Western Conference titles. To do that, they have to go through the Colorado Avalanche – which will not be as easy as it may sound.
Tonight's rematch is this week's NHL.tv free game, and the Stars have had four days to stew over their 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, powered by two shorthanded goals. Mark Stepneski weighs the details in yesterday's game preview:
"Clearly the power play let us down. A couple of mistakes went the wrong way," said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. "You are not always going to score on the power play, but you don't want to change momentum going the other way, and that's what we did tonight. It was the difference in the game."
The Stars and St. Louis are tied atop the Central Division with 105 points with two games remaining for both teams. The Stars would clinch the division and the No. 1 seed in the West with a win over Colorado and if St. Louis loses to Chicago in regulation on Thursday.
The Stars face a bitterly disappointed Avs team that has just been eliminated from the playoffs for the second year in a row. Despite their current losing streak, they still – for now – hold a 2-0-1 advantage in the two teams' season series.
The Avalanche (39-37-4) were eliminated from contention for a playoff spot with a 4-3 loss at Nashville. It was the fourth straight loss for the Avalanche and the sixth in the past seven games.
"Today I am very disappointed," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy told NHL.com. "I'm sure we're going to have plenty of time to talk about it, but I mean it's not what we expect from this team. We expect more from this team."
Catch some video from the Stars' Wednesday practice to see and hear from Kris Russell and Jason Demers, plus Lindy Ruff's update on Tyler Seguin.
The #MDK was quiet last night, but as usual, it was the calm before the storm. Check out tonight's action:
- Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes, 7 p.m. Central time
- St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. Central time (NOTE: Chicago, you have one job.)
- Winnipeg Jets at San Jose Sharks, 9:30 p.m. Central time
And in Western Conference playoff-seeding action, the Ducks play the Los Angeles Kings for Pacific Division dominance at 9:30 p.m. Central time.
Not that it's mattered for a while, but Carey Price is officially out for the rest of the Montreal Canadiens' season, and the team has finally identified the injury that took him down back in November.
There's better news for fellow wounded G Corey Crawford, who has returned to practice and hopes to be the Chicago Blackhawks' Game 1 starter by playoffs time.
Reports are in that the Russian under-18 hockey team has become embroiled en masse in a doping scandal involving meldonium – which you may recall as the pharmaceutical, banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency in January, that was found in Maria Sharapova's positive test last month.* [Sports Illustrated]
*The Dallas Stars have two prospects who play in Russian leagues; Denis Gurianov and Dmitry Sinitsyn are 18 and 21, respectively.
AllHockey.ru reports that the entire Russian U18 national hockey team may skip the Worlds due to positive Meldonium tests.— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) April 6, 2016
The U18 coach has been fired, the roster is confirmed to be radically changed. This is the first Meldonium scandal in Russian hockey.— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) April 6, 2016
For context: The International Biathlon Union has chosen to delay decisions on meldonium doping because of incomplete data regarding how long it takes to leave the body – which could affect athletes who ingested it before it was banned. [ABC News]
All-Star MVP John Scott wrapped up a whirlwind year with what may be his last NHL start, and his first for the Canadiens.
Former Star Steve Ott, who has missed 53 games after hamstring surgery in December, has been diagnosed with colitis. [Sportsnet]
There's a new twist in the ongoing saga of the Flint Firebirds (the OHL home of Stars prospects Alex Peters and Brent Moran), as the league hands the team's owner a five-year suspension from hockey operations. Ben Smith recaps the issues, as well as the OHL's actions, which include a first-round draft pick forfeit. [The Hockey Writers]
The Texas Stars can clinch a Calder Cup playoff spot with one win during this weekend's double-header with the San Jose Barracuda.
Finally: Travis Moen celebrated his 34th birthday yesterday, and @DallasStars observed the occasion with an appropriate photo. Enjoy.