Stars in Must-Win Situation as they Face the Panthers

The Stars have put themselves in a position where they must play near perfect hockey the rest of the season.

Well I’m not sure words can quite explain the difficult situation the Dallas Stars have put themselves in. Two games in hand and trailing the Nashville Predators means fate is in your hands. One game in hand and trailing by three points means you need help beyond your control.

Now, instead of taking care of business and being in the playoffs, the Stars find themselves needing to win and hope they get some help from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes. Of course, that might be easier said than done right now. The Stars have to play the Florida Panthers tonight and then they have two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

First things first. The Stars must take care of the business at hand. It’s easy for us on the outside to play the “what-if” game. For the Stars, though, it’s imperative they only look at the team on the ice in front of them each night. And tonight that team is the Florida Panthers. Dallas will close out their season series with the Panthers in Sunrise, Florida.

Potential Lines for Dallas

Jason Robertson (21) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Jason Dickinson (18) - Jamie Benn (14) - Tanner Kero (64)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Joel Kiviranta (25) - Rhett Gardner (49) - Mark Pysyk (13)

Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Sami Vatanen (45)

Anton Khudobin (35)
Jake Oettinger (29)

Dickinson, Hintz, Gurianov, and Tyler Seguin are all considered game-time decisions tonight. It’s the first time that Seguin has been given this designation, which means he must be close to returning for the first time this season after his offseason hip surgery.

The Florida Panthers

Currently the Panthers find themselves in third place in the Central Division. They are guaranteed to finish in one of the top three spots but they’re not locked in to any of them yet. Currently the Hurricanes are in first place with 75 points. Tampa Bay and Florida are both tied with 73.

Getting a top-two spot is important so that you are guaranteed to host the first round of the playoffs. So any thoughts on Florida not playing hard tonight is out of the question.

The Panthers are 17-9-2 at home this year. They are currently averaging 3.28 goals per game and only allowing 2.75. With two players currently over 50 points on the season (Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau), it may come down to the Stars offense outscoring Florida.

Potential Lines for Florida

Grigori Denisenko (14) - Aleksander Barkov (16) - Anthony Duclair (91)
Jonathan Huberdeau (11) - Sam Bennett (9) - Owen Tippett (74)
Frank Vatrano (77) - Alexander Wennberg (21) - Aleksi Heponiemi (20)
Ryan Lomberg (94) - Noel Acciari (55) - Nikita Gusev (97)

Gustav Forsling (42) - MacKenzie Weegar (52)
Keith Yandle (3) - Radko Gudas (7)
Markus Nutivaara (65) - Brandon Montour (62)

Spencer Knight (30)
Philippe Desrosiers (95)