The Dallas Stars enter their final two games of the season having enjoyed their first three-day break since the All-Star game festivities. They also enter them needing to gather a few points, and was the bad taste out of their mouth left by the Ducks- Festooned in the orange that was as offensive as the shorthanded goals against Sunday.
The Stars were assured a win, of sorts, coming out of California already having secured two points in an emotional, physical battle against the Los Angeles Kings the afternoon before. So Lindy Ruff was not particularly pointed in his comments, but the shorthanded goals against did force the conversation to one individual in particular-
"He made a youthful mistake," Ruff said of John Klingberg. "Klinger is young, and he's going to make mistakes and he's got to get through them. But I think our power play has scored some big goals, so we'll move on and learn from it."
Like having a "gunslinger" at the quarterback position in football, the Stars appear prepared to live with the ocassional boo-boo laden performance like Sunday in exchange for all the "walking the line" that he does on so many other nights, navigating his high-wire act as he does.
It was still a tough way to lose a hockey game that could have done so much for them- And that speaks volumes about the heights they've very nearly reached.
On the other hand, for a team with a chance to clinch home-ice in the toughest division hockey, the Stars are pretty much a mess.
Tyler Seguin is skating a little bit- And he has one week, or less, to make it back for "game one" as promised. That's a tall order. Jason Demers is skating and is said to be "better than expected" according to the DMN.
Kris Russel hasn't played in weeks now, but might tonight. Mattian Janmark is questionable. Patrick Eaves is out. Brett Ritchie is progressing, but out.
Those are six big bodies to be without, potentially, as this fleeting opportunity to finally grasp what they want arrives in a 48 hour period. Curtis McKenzie has been thrown into the mix and figures to see action on the weekend at some point.
While the puck drops on this game at the AAC, the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks will be tasked with handing out two, and most likely three points between the two of them before the night is out, which could severely complicate things for the good guys.
A win or a Chicago loss of any kind clinches home ice for the Stars- At least second in the division. A win and a St. Louis loss in regulation secures them the whole enchilada, but they had that chance on Sunday and missed the boat.
The Blues are playing from a position of strength, knowing they'd have to lose out and Chicago win out for their positions to flip-flop, but it is a possibility. The Stars could wind up third and the Hawks could win up first. It's going to be a fun weekend.
The Avalanche will be entering the scene with nothing to lose. Eager to spoil.
Like the Stars of so many years past, they had a chance into the final days of the season, technically, to make a run at a playoff spot. It did not happen. Stars fans can sympathize.
They can also recall what comes next- The pressure removed, the team generally plays well. The Stars will have to counter what will be an attack with reckless abandon now, and their struggles against the Avs over the last many years are well documented. This not a team the Stars match up with well, historically.
Colorado made a big push in March, winning six of eight, seemingly pushing themselves into playoff contention, but a streak that's seen them lose six of their last seven, including four-in-a-row, has now seen them cut down once again.
The Avs are 2-0-1 against the Stars this season.
Aside- At one point do we call it the last possible time to see Jarome Iginla at the AAC?
From Stars PR:
ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
The Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche meet in the fourth and final game of the 2015-16 season series, with the Avalanche having won two of the three games played. In the most recent game of the season series, the Stars snapped an eight-game losing streak to Colorado with a 4-3 overtime victory on Feb. 4 at Pepsi Center. Defenseman John Klingberg notched the game-winning tally (1-0=1) 35 seconds into overtime to secure the club's first win over the Avalanche since a 3-2 victory at American Airlines Center on Dec. 17, 2013. Defenseman Patrik Nemeth recorded a career-best two assists (0-2=2), with forward Ales Hemsky registering a goal (1-0=1) with a game-high seven shots on goal.
BENN THERE, DONE THAT
Stars captain Jamie Benn potted a goal (1-0=1) on Saturday afternoon against the Los Angeles Kings and now has points in four of his last five games (5-1=6). The forward has now registered a career-high 88 points (41-47=88) through 80 games this season, which ranks third in Dallas Stars history (since 1993-94). Benn ranks second in the NHL with 88 points, ranks third with a career-high in goals (41) and is tied for ninth in assists (47). With his 40th goal of the 2015-16 campaign on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes, Benn became the first Dallas Stars player to hit the 40-goal mark since Mike Modano recorded 50 goals during the 1993-94 campaign. The native of Victoria, B.C. has 23 points (5-18=23) in 28 career contests against the Avalanche.