With just 51 days (including today) left in their regular season schedule in which to clinch a playoff spot, the Stars will suit up for 25 games down the stretch. Gone are the days in which the team will have a chance to correct issues in play at practice. From here on out, it’ll be about trusting the system, trusting each other, and fighting tooth and nail to be in the post-season.
After all, that’s when the real fun begins.
For every Central Division team down the stretch of the season, games will feel like playoff matches. Just nine points separate the best in the Central from the last Wild Card team. The Colorado Avalanche sit two points back of the Minnesota Wild for that position, and the seeding between third and sixth in the division is razor-thin. Every point feels as if it matters just a little bit more with the playoffs in sight than they might at the beginning of the season, when the playoff run seems too far in the future.
With the playoff structured so that the Central Division could send a maximum of five teams to the post-season, and the teams so tightly packed together, there’s not much margin of error. That’s why divisional match-ups, such as tonight’s game between the Stars and Blues, will be that much more significant and impact each team’s ability to reach the post-season.
A win tonight provides the Blues another game in which they cannot earn two points against the Stars — on top of the two games in hand the Stars already have on the Blues.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Antoine Roussel was held out of practice Thursday due to back spasms, but the Stars think he’s close to ready to play. He’ll be a game-time decision. Martin Hanzal also did not practice Thursday due to a scheduled maintenance day for the veteran forward that has had issues staying healthy this season. Marc Methot should be closer to returning.
Here’s the Stars anticipated lineup:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Antonie Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Stephen Johns - Julius Honka
Ben Bishop gets the call between the pipes.