The Dallas Stars kick off the final third of the season tonight when they host the Minnesota Wild at American Airlines Center.
The Stars come into tonight’s game with 33 points (15-14-3) and are three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. If you look long term, it could take 53 or 54 points to be in the mix to make the top eight at the end of the season, meaning the Stars would have to go something like 10-6-0 or 10-5-1 over their last 16 games.
The Stars say they aren’t focused on what they have to do over the long-term, they are just focusing on the next game.
“We don’t talk about that, what we have to win in 16 games. We talk about today,” said Stars coach Gulutzan. “We know that we have a game in hand on St. Louis and if we get two points tonight we’re a point back with two other home games coming up. To look at what you have to finish, there’s a lot that can go on from now. I firmly believe somebody’s going to have to go on a little bit of a run here. And as a team that’s not in the eight right now, we want that to be us. We’ve got to start tonight with the two points, get a little confidence in the room, get within striking distance of those other teams that are in the eight.”
Added defenseman Brenden Dillon: “It’s one day at a time. We don’t want to look too far ahead. We definitely understand we are in the last little push here, last stretch of the season, so we want to be as sharp as we can and be strong.”
Tonight’s game will be the second straight against the Wild, who beat the Stars 7-4 at American Airlines Center Monday night. The Wild have played since, defeating Phoenix 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday to extend their winning streak to seven games.
“It’s a big game for us,” said Dillon. “We know the roll they are on and, obviously, payback for Monday night’s game. We know what to expect and we’re excited for the challenge tonight.”
The Stars are expected to roll out the same lineup as Monday’s game. Kari Lehtonen is in goal tonight. It’s be the 13th straight start for Lehtonen.
It looks like the Stars will use the same forward line combinations and defense pairings, meaning that Jordie Benn is the expected scratch tonight.
Matt Hackett will start in goal tonight for the Minnesota Wild. No. 1 goalie Niklas Backstrom did not travel with the team. He is expected to start tomorrow night when the Wild host the Los Angeles Kings in St. Paul.
Stars projected lineup