WINNIPEG -- The Dallas Stars have an opportunity to gain more ground on the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday at MTS Centre.
The Stars hold the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference in their bid to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2008. Dallas owns a six-point advantage on Winnipeg and two games in hand when they begin a three-game road trip this week.
"It seems like every game is desperation time for us [and] for [Winnipeg]," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said after the morning skate. "We realize as a team where [Winnipeg is] at, and I think they look at this game as do-or-die and a chance to move up against a team that is in a playoff spot."
The Stars expect to have center Cody Eakin back in the lineup. Eakin missed the Stars' 4-3 shootout loss at home against the Calgary Flames on Friday with a lower-body injury.
"It looks good right now," Ruff said of the likelihood of Eakins dressing against Winnipeg.
Ruff also expects a desperate opponent.
"I expect nothing less than a playoff game," Stars center Tyler Seguin said. "I think every game right now, with the schedule and what is left, is huge."
A loss against the Stars would damage the Jets' postseason ambitions, but coach Paul Maurice is not attempting to diffuse the importance of the game. The franchise is attempting to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
"I think we want to feel the pressure," Maurice said of playing the Stars. "I want our team to feel that it's a huge game and deal with all of the emotions that go with that nervous energy, because it's part of the process that they have to go through.
"If at some point, if you're exactly as successful as you want to be, you're going to playing in one huge game. And when you get there, you want to feel like you're prepared for it."
The Jets will be without goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who left a 4-2 home loss against the New York Rangers on Friday after the first period. Pavelec was evaluated Saturday and will be out for at least two games with a lower-body injury. Goaltender Al Montoya will start for the Jets against Dallas.
To replace Pavelec, the Jets recalled goaltender Michael Hutchinson from the St. John's IceCaps of the American Hockey League. Hutchinson, 24, went 15-5-1 with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in 22 games with the IceCaps this season.
Along with Pavelec, injuries are accumulating for the Jets. Left wing Chris Thorburn (talus bone) will be out of the lineup indefinitely. Jim Slater has what is believed to be a lower-body injury and will not dress against Dallas. Center Eric O'Dell will move up to a line with Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi.
The absence of Slater and Thorburn necessitated the recall of center Patrice Cormier from St. John's on Sunday. The 23-year-old has six goals and 15 assists in 54 games with the IceCaps this season. Cormier will skate on the Jets' fourth line, which also will likely see the return of Eric Tangradi.
Goaltender Tim Thomas will start for the Stars.
Here are the probable lineups for the Stars and Jets:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Valeri Nichushkin
Erik Cole - Travis Morin - Colton Sceviour
Antoine Roussel - Vernon Fiddler - Alex Chiasson
Ray Whitney - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt
Alex Goligoski - Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn - Brenden Dillon
Kevin Connauton - Sergei Gonchar
Scratched: Chris Mueller, Aaron Rome
Injured: Shawn Horcoff (upper body), Kari Lehtonen (concussion), Rich Peverley (heart)
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Michael Frolik
Evander Kane - Eric O'Dell - Devin Setoguchi
Dustin Byfuglien - Olli Jokinen - Blake Wheeler
Eric Tangradi - Patrice Cormier - Anthony Peluso
Zach Bogosian - Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy - Keaton Ellerby
Scratched: Matt Halischuk, Paul Postma
Injured: John Albert (upper body), Grant Clitsome (back), Ondrej Pavelec (lower body), Mark Scheifele (knee), Jim Slater (lower body) Chris Thorburn (talus), James Wright (ankle)