If the Dallas Stars wanted to keep fans on the edge of their seats to the last seconds of the regular season, they could hardly have scripted it better. Their match with the Nashville Predators tonight at 7 p.m. Central time will decide not just a game, but potentially whether the Stars or the St. Louis Blues will win the Central Division and Western Conference banners.
Last year's season finale against the Preds was gripping for another reason, as captain Jamie Benn won the Art Ross Trophy with a spectacular four-point night even as the already eliminated Stars played for pride alone. Benn won't repeat the high-scoring achievement this year, but he's pushing for other milestones:
This season, Benn's focus is on a team goal. He hopes to help lead the Stars to a win over the Predators Saturday to secure a Central Division title and the top seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.
"This is a lot better," Benn said. "I like it way more. We can do something special on the last night here, and that's what we are going to try and do."
Lindy Ruff wants fans to know the Stars will fight to win it all:
Stars coach Lindy Ruff made it clear Friday that the team is putting a premium on the two points at stake in Saturday's game.
"It's really the only thing that counts," Ruff said. "You're in a position to clinch the conference and a division title. We have one game left to play, and it's a game we want to win."
There's always more at the source. [Stars Inside Edge]
Elsewhere in Mark, check out his Stars-Predators preview. [Stars Inside Edge]
Mike Heika talks to Stars vets including Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski and Colton Sceviour about taking a respect-starved team from hard times to the cusp of division and conference titles, and about what they want to accomplish tonight. [SportsDayDFW]
The NHL reminds us indirectly that Kari Lehtonen is heating up at a very opportune time.
Can you believe there are other teams playing tonight? Here's a look at the remaining action in the #MurderDeathKill Division:
- Colorado Avalanche vs. Anaheim Ducks, 4:30 p.m. Central time
- Minnesota Wild vs. Calgary Flames, 6 p.m. Central time
- Chicago Blackhawks at Columbus Blue Jackets, 6 p.m. Central time
- St. Louis Blues vs. Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. Central time
Take a long, steamy gawk at some of T-Mobile Arena's special features and see why Dan Marrazza says Las Vegas is serious about landing an NHL expansion team. [ESPN]
Also at Sportsnet: Dimitri Filipovic says the NHL needs to rethink the criteria it uses to separate elite offensive players from the merely good. [Sportsnet]
Who says there's no more regular-season drama for the Washington Capitals? The President's Trophy winners have lost four of their last five games and "look like they're trying to catch a moving train," says Chuck Gormley. [NHL on NBC]
InGoal Magazine's Kevin Woodley explains why stick deflections are so disruptive for netminders, even from distance. Remember this article the next time you see a score on "one of those stops a good goalie just makes." [NHL]
The Texas Stars were shut out by the San Jose Barracuda last night, but they're still one point away from clinching a playoff spot this weekend.
AHL forward Brett Gallant of the Lake Erie Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets) is recovering in a hospital after collapsing on the bench last night during a game against the Toronto Marlies.
The best college-hockey-award surprise is no surprise, said someone, somewhere (probably the president).
Finally: As the father of two daughters, Patrick Sharp bonded naturally with 15-year-old Veronica, a foster child who needs a dad. See their story in WFAA's latest Wednesday's Child feature. [WFAA]