The Dallas Stars have been moving up in the crowded Western Conference standings with their strong play since the All-Star break.
Continuing that surge and locking down their sixth straight playoff appearance could be tough without Brad Richards.
After losing their second-leading scorer to a fractured wrist, the Stars go for their ninth win in 12 games when they host the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
Dallas (28-21-7) has gone 8-3-0 since Jan. 25, a hot streak that has put it in the thick of a competitive playoff race in the West. The Stars are in seventh place with 63 points, one behind than Vancouver and Columbus, but just eight more than three teams that are tied for fewest in the conference.
Emerging from that tight race will be a little more challenging if the Stars don't have Richards, who was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.
Richards had four goals and five assists in 11 games since the break. He's third on the club with 16 goals, second with 32 assists and 48 points and first with 179 shots.
But Richards was hurt in the Stars' 3-2 shootout win at Columbus on Monday. He scored 27 seconds into the game before taking a hard check midway through the second period. He won't need surgery, but is still expected to miss six to eight weeks.
After Richards' departure, forward Loui Eriksson notched his team-high 27th goal to tie the score in the second and rookie forward James Neal gave Dallas the win with the only shootout tally.
"You want to step up. You want to be a big player and contribute," said Neal, who is second among rookies with 18 goals. "I want to be a guy who can put the puck in the net in big situations."
Neal may get more opportunities while Richards is sidelined.
"It was a big loss once Richy got hurt, but guys had to pick up the slack once he went out," he told the Stars' official Web site. "We have had injuries all year, and we'll fight through it."
Edmonton (29-24-4) hopes to take advantage of Richards' injury, as it's one point behind Dallas in the West.
The Oilers didn't help their cause with a 4-2 road loss to San Jose that snapped their three-game winning streak Tuesday. They gave up three goals in a fight-filled second period, including a short-handed go-ahead tally.
"We're disappointed, but proud of the way we played," defenseman Steve Staios said. "Our work effort was great coming off a back-to-back. There were a couple of mental things that hung us up."
The Oilers lost their first meeting with the Stars this season to extend their winless streak in the series to seven games. But they've won the clubs' last two matchups, 5-2 on Dec. 3 and 4-1 on Jan. 3.
Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson is 1-3-0 with two ties and a 3.24 goals-against average in nine career games in Dallas, where the Oilers are 0-3-1 in their last four.
The Stars' Marty Turco, who's 8-3-0 with a 1.78 GAA since the break, came into the season 15-4-0 with a 2.09 GAA lifetime against the Oilers. He's 1-2-0 with a 3.68 GAA against them in 2008-09.