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Capitals host Stars before huge four-game road trip

by David Kalan

STARS (36-27-11) at CAPITALS (34-28-13)


Last 10: Dallas 5-4-1; Washington 4-3-3

Season series: The Dallas Stars won their only previous game against the Washington Capitals this season, a 2-1 victory at American Airlines Center back on Oct. 5.

Big story: As the chase for the Stanley Cup Playoffs reaches its climax, the Capitals and Stars are one point out of the final wild-card position in their respective conferences. Each will look to leapfrog their competition and jump into Stanley Cup Playoff position on Tuesday.

Team Scope:

Stars: Few teams are coming into the final two weeks of the regular season as hot as the Stars, who have won four of their past five games, pulling them to within one point of the eighth-place Phoenix Coyotes with a game in hand. In its most-recent game, Dallas beat the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues 4-2 for what could prove to be two huge points as the Stars close in on a wild-card spot.

Perhaps more impressive than beating one of the NHL's elite teams is the fact that Dallas managed to score four times on one of the stingiest. St. Louis surrenders 2.33 goals per game, the fourth fewest in the League.

"It's not a must-win situation quite yet, but with the teams ahead of us winning games, we've got to keep pace," said forward Colton Sceviour, who had two goals in the win. "We were playing a really good team in the second game of a back-to-back with travel and it's huge to come in here and get a victory."

Capitals: The Capitals are also one point out of the postseason field, but they face a taller order having played fewer games than the eighth-place Columbus Blue Jackets. Making matters worse is that Washington will need a change of momentum quickly if it hopes to overtake Columbus. Washington hasn't won in regulation since March 18, and its lone win in its past five games came in a shootout against the San Jose Sharks.

The Capitals have been fortunate in that three of their four losses also came via the shootout, allowing the team to pick up valuable points in the standings. That was also the case in Washington's most-recent game, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators.

After hosting the Stars on Tuesday, the Capitals leave for a four-game road trip that will likely make or break their season. Washington will visit the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Blues and Carolina Hurricanes.

Who's hot: Sceviour has three goals and an assist in the past two games. ... Capitals forward Troy Brouwer has two goals and three assists in the past three games.

Injury report: Stars forward Erik Cole (upper-body injury) is out. … Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen (upper-body injury) is questionable; forwards Brooks Laich (groin injury) and Aaron Volpatti (lower-body injury) are out.

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