The Dallas Stars kickoff a three game road swing through the California teams tonight when they take on the San Jose Sharks. It’s a swing that Stars fans are very familiar with, having spent so many late nights watching Stars hockey due to the time change in divisional matchups when they were in the Pacific Division seasons ago.
Thankfully, the Stars road play has improved of late. They’ve dug themselves out of a losing record hole away from the American Airlines Center and are now 13-11-3 so far this season. Dallas will need to continue to play well on the road, as this game tonight is one of 14 road games left on the schedule. (They have 10 games left at home, where they’ve been great at collecting wins, much like many Western Conference teams.)
Collecting points on this road trip will be key if the Stars want to continue putting distance between themselves and the other five teams that are just three points out of the second Wild Card spot in the standings.
San Jose finds themselves in a similar battle in the Pacific Division.
Just three points separate second in the Pacific (where the Sharks are currently sitting) and being out of the playoff picture altogether (where the Los Angeles Kings find themselves today). With the Central Division being so closely compacted, and the likelihood of both Wild Card spots being claimed by Central teams improving as the games click off the regular season, maintaining their position in the Pacific might be the only assurance the Sharks have of making the playoffs.
Every game is big from here on out for both teams in match-ups. As long as the Stars can collect points, they’ll be able to control their own playoff destiny — something every team would prefer as the season winds down.
After all, scoreboard watching in the Central Division hasn’t been kind many nights.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Antoine Roussel practiced yesterday after missing Friday’s game due to back spasms. His status is yet to be determined for tonight’s game. Everyone else came out of the game fine in terms of injury, including Marc Methot, who just returned from a knee injury last game. Here were the lines from their last game, unless Roussel draws in, I would expect they will roll something like this again.
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Devin Shore - Jason Spezza - Mattias Janmark
Gemel Smith - Martin Hanzal - Brett Ritchie
Remi Elie - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Marc Methot - Stephen Johns
Ben Bishop will be the starting goaltender for the Stars.
San Jose Sharks Lineup
The Sharks have had a rash of injuries of late. Joe Thornton is on injured reserve and Joel Ward is week-to-week with a shoulder injury. Tomas Hertl is questionable for tonight with the ever-vague “upper body injury”, so we should expect lines to look something like this from their last game. Yes, that is defenseman Brent Burns playing as a forward, and no, that isn’t a mistake.
Timo Meier — Joe Pavelski — Brent Burns
Joonas Donskoi — Logan Couture — Kevin Labanc
Mikkel Boedker — Chris Tierney — Jannik Hansen
Marcus Sorensen — Barclay Goodrow — Melker Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic — Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon — Dylan DeMelo
Joakim Ryan — Tim Heed
Martin Jones should get the call in net for the Sharks.