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GAME DAY: Dallas

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

BLUE JACKETS (22-17-7) AT STARS (22-20-4)




The saying goes that "everything is bigger in Texas," which could only mean Thursday's game between the Blue Jackets and Stars is nothing short of mastadonic.

With two games left in the NHL regular season, the two teams are separated by three points in the standings and it presents a huge swing-game opportunity for both sides. If the Blue Jackets can win their seventh road game in their last nine outings away from Nationwide Arena, they would create mathematically insurmountable separation between themselves and Dallas and move one step closer to clinching their second playoff berth in franchise history.

On the other hand, Dallas can really help its cause by earning a bounce-back win on home ice. The Stars were in good stead two nights ago in San Jose, leading 2-1 with six minutes to play and on the verge of moving within a point of eighth place. But all of a sudden, the Sharks woke up and did what they've done so often on home ice: scoring two quick goals (in a span of 30 seconds) to erase the one-goal deficit and take the lead with less than five minutes remaining in regulation. It was a devastating blow to the Stars, who seemed to have total control and were playing a stifling brand of hockey in a tough environment.

But the Blue Jackets aren't complaining about the Sharks' win, as it gave them a bit of assistance in their playoff push. Despite holding down eighth place for the last week, they are in the tense situation of not controlling their own destiny - yet.

Regardless of how the Detroit Red Wings or the Stars finish out this season, the Blue Jackets have no margin for error and have only one option: win both of their remaining games, beginning Thursday in Dallas. Both previous meetings in the season series between Columbus and Dallas have taken place at Nationwide Arena and both were one-goal decisions. Ironically enough, the most recent meeting (Feb. 26) was an overtime loss for the Blue Jackets that got their 12-game points streak started and led to where they sit today.

And for all prognostication since the start of the season, there comes this fact: on April 25, 2013, the game with the highest stakes in the NHL will feature the Blue Jackets and Stars. Whoever wins this game will have a much clearer understanding of where they stand once it's over.

- The Blue Jackets have received contributions from all parts of their lineup to get into the playoff mix, and their record over the last 27 games reflects it: they are 17-5-5 in that stretch and have gone from 15th place in the conference to eighth (currently).

-In their previous meeting with the Stars, the Blue Jackets owned the lowest point total in the NHL. They are now three points ahead of Dallas with two games to play.

- Columbus does not expect to have Anisimov or Nikitin in the lineup against the Stars, though coach Todd Richards said Aucoin and Boll would make the trip and play.

- The Blue Jackets won their last trip to American Airlines Center back on Dec. 29, 2011.

Antoine Roussel


2012-13 STATS: 7-7-14, 37 GP

Rather than get a few solid games from a young recall like Roussel, the Stars found themselves a reliable every day player who can contribute at both ends of the rink. The 23-year-old native of France fits the Stars' mold perfectly: he hits hard, he gets under the opponents' skin and he has the ability to chip in on the scoresheet. He's been valuable during Dallas' playoff run, too, scoring goals in each of the last two games on their California road trip.

COLUMBUS: Artem Anisimov (upper body), out; Matt Calvert (broken finger), out; Nikita Nikitin (lower body), out

DALLAS: Alex Chiasson (shoulder), probable

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