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Jets face key test against Stars

by Davis Harper

STARS (32-23-11) at JETS (30-29-9)


Last 10: Dallas 6-2-2; Winnipeg 2-4-4

Season series: This is the fourth of five games between the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars; the road team has won each of the first three. Stars center Tyler Seguin has four goals and four assists in Dallas' two victories at MTS Centre.

Big story: When the NHL season resumed after the break for the Sochi Olympics, the Stars and Jets were separated by two points in the race for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the teams have gone in opposite directions since then. Dallas entered the weekend in possession of the final wild-card position; the Jets have fallen six points off the pace as the result of an 0-3-3 slide, and with starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec scheduled to miss at least two games with an lower-body injury, the Jets' climb just got steeper.

Team Scope:

Stars: The Stars play 10 of their final 16 games on the road, starting with a three-game trip that includes games against the Jets, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

"All the teams we are bumping up against are in the same category as we are," coach Lindy Ruff told the team's website after practice Saturday. "They are desperate for points, they are desperate to put wins on the board and they are not easy buildings to play in."

Ruff also said his team was focused on cleaning up issues that beset them in a 4-3 shootout loss Friday to the Calgary Flames. The Stars led 3-1 but allowed the Flames to score twice in the final 7:09 of regulation.

"We stopped playing," captain Jamie Benn said after the game. "This time of year with these points being so valuable, you can't give up a 3-1 lead in the third. We were lucky to get one point. It was a must-win game for us."

Jets: Coach Paul Maurice didn't hold back Saturday when asked about the importance of a potential skid-snapping win against the Stars.

"This is our chance to get back in the fight here," Maurice told the Winnipeg Free Press. "We did something exceptionally special to close the gap … and then stumbled."

Forward Blake Wheeler echoed his coach's aspirational tone.

"It's a big one," Wheeler said. "We need to start winning games and when you're playing a team that occupies the position you want to be in, it definitely carries a little bit more weight."

Pavelec, who left the game Friday against the New York Rangers after the first period, was ruled out for at least two games. Al Montoya will get the start against Dallas and is likely to play Monday against the St. Louis Blues. Winnipeg called up Michael Hutchinson from the St. John's Ice Caps of the American Hockey League on Saturday to back up Montoya, who is 10-5-3 with a 2.20 goals-against average and a save percentage of .924 in 21 appearances, including 16 starts.

Who's hot: The Jets will need to keep an eye on Seguin. Not only has he torched them in two visits to at MTS Centre this season, he also has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in a four-game point streak. … Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has four goals in his past four games.

Injury report: For Dallas, goalie Kari Lehtonen (concussion) went through a full practice Saturday but remains day-to-day. Forward Cody Eakin (foot) should return Sunday, while center Shawn Horcoff (upper body) and wing Rich Peverley (heart) are out. … For the Jets, Pavelec (lower body), forward Chris Thorburn (foot), centers Mark Scheifele (lower body) and center John Albert (upper body) are day-to-day. Center James Wright (ankle) is out indefinitely and defenseman Grant Clitsome (back) will miss the rest of the season.

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