DALLAS -- The Detroit Red Wings enter the final game of the regular season Saturday with a simple goal: Beat the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center and secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a 22nd straight season.
Detroit (23-16-8, 54 points), which has won three straight and is 6-3-3 in April, sits seventh in the Western Conference, one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild, who are eighth at 53 points.
The Stars were eliminated from postseason contention for a fifth straight season when the Red Wings beat the Nashville Predators, 5-2 on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena. And even though Dallas has little other than pride to play for, the approach remains the same for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
"Well, you just play hard, get prepared and win a game. That’s what we have to do here," Babcock said. "I don’t think we need to worry about anything else, just focus on the process like we talk about each and every game, have some urgency about us, make sure we start on time and we let the structure of the game protect us by being in good spots and being patient."
Goaltender Jimmy Howard will start his 15th straight game for Detroit and make his 42nd start of the season. Babcock announced his lineup will remain the same from the win Thursday against the Predators.
The Stars will make a few changes for the season finale, with the biggest being that backup goaltender Richard Bachman will start in place of Kari Lehtonen. Bachman went 3-1-0 with a 1.91 goals-against-average and a .953 save percentage after taking over for Lehtonen late in the first period of a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on April 9.
"Yeah, [Bachman] is going to go," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "He’s undefeated in three of his last four starts. He’s going to go tonight. [This] will be a good one for him."
The Stars will be without defenseman Trevor Daley, who is out with a neck injury that could require offseason surgery. Aaron Rome, who missed a 3-1 loss Thursday to the Columbus Blue Jackets with a hip injury, will return to the Dallas blueline and take Daley’s spot alongside Stephane Robidas in the top defensive pairing.
"Daley’s out. Everyone else is in," Gulutzan said. "We’re assuming so [that he will need surgery], but until he goes to see some specialists [we don’t know]. He [Daley] hasn’t skated in the last 10 days, just played the games."
Though Dallas will miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year, the Stars are looking to extend a streak of 15 straight winning seasons with a win over the Red Wings to end this campaign on a high note.
"I think our team is playing more for its pride," Gulutzan said. "We're proud of the way we have battled for the last month, and we don't want to do anything other than play our last game the way we have battled the last month. So, all motivation is from within."
Here are the projected lineups:
Henrik Zetterberg – Pavel Datsyuk – Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen – Valtteri Filppula – Daniel Cleary
Joakim Andersson – Damien Brunner – Gustav Nyquist
Patrick Eaves – Cory Emmerton – Jordin Tootoo
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyser – Jakub Kindl
Kyle Quincey – Brendan Smith
Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Brian Lashoff, Ian White
Injured: Todd Bertuzzi (back), Darren Helm (back), Drew Miller (hand), Mikael Samuelsson (chest)
Ray Whitney – Jamie Benn – Loui Eriksson
Reilly Smith – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Eric Nystrom – Vernon Fiddler – Erik Cole
Lane MacDermid – Tom Wandell – Antoine Roussel
Aaron Rome - Stephane Robidas
Brenden Dillon - Alex Goligoski
Jordie Benn – Philip Larsen
Injured: Alex Chiasson (shoulder), Trevor Daley (neck)