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Stars' battle for playoff spot continues against Oilers

by Eric Goodman
STARS (33-26-5) at OILERS (25-32-6)


Last 10:
Dallas 5-3-2; Edmonton 4-5-1

Season series:
This is the third of four meetings between Dallas and Edmonton. The Stars took both games at Dallas by a 4-1 score. The teams split the two-game series at Edmonton in 2010-11.

Big Story: Dallas continues its fight for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, while Edmonton continues to play the role of spoiler. Although moving up in the standings is still possible, the Stars' first concern is beating out the red-hot Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings for the eighth seed.  

Team Scope:

Stars: Dallas starts its three-game road trip Friday at Edmonton after going 2-0-1 over its recent three-game homestand. The Stars can also establish a three-game road winning streak with a victory at Edmonton.

If the Stars hope to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season, they will need to continue grabbing at least a point in mostly every remaining game on the schedule, similar to what they did in a shootout loss vs. Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Dallas forced overtime off a Michael Ryder goal midway through the third period but eventually lost the game, 4-3, following a four-round shootout in which Ryder was stopped by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to seal it for the Penguins. The Dallas loss snapped a four-game winning streak.

"I thought both teams played hard and well. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the extra point," coach Glen Gulutzan told the team's official web site following the game.

Oilers: With one of the youngest rosters in the League, boasting rising stars such as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it's only a matter of time before the Oilers finally find themselves competing for a postseason spot. But with only 56 points through 63 games, this does not appear as if it will be the breakout season for Edmonton.

Regardless of the Oilers' place in the West standings, they will still look to ruin their competitors' playoff hopes as they play out the rest of the season. Friday's game will see the Oilers trying to bounce back from a 5-2 loss to the visiting Blues on Wednesday. The Oilers hardly competed vs. St. Louis as they fell behind 3-0 by midway through the second period. While Nugent-Hopkins put his team within striking distance with a goal in the closing minute of the second period to make it 3-2, the Blues exploded out the gates in the third with two unanswered goals to put it out of reach.

"(The Blues are) a team that played the game the right way," coach Tom Renney said. "One thing they won't do is beat themselves, much like we did."

Who's Hot:
Wednesday's shootout loss ended Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen's three-game winning streak. He has a 1.50 goals-against average over the last four games played. … Hall is in the midst of a five-game point streak for the Oilers, tallying 3 goals and 4 assists over that span.

Injury Report: Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin missed the last two games with a strained groin, while defenseman Theo Peckham is on injured reserve with a facial injury. … Jamie Benn returned to the Stars' lineup Wednesday after missing the previous six games with a leg injury. The Vicotira, B.C., native notched a goal against Pittsburgh. Forwards Brenden Morrow (neck/back) and Jake Dowell (finger) are on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Nugent-Hopkins continues to put up numbers worthy of Calder Trophy consideration as he was third among NHL rookies in scoring, as of Wednesday, with 38 points (15g, 23a).

Puck Drop: It's important for the Stars to keep up their solid play as a playoff spot is anything but guaranteed. To get that push over the edge, Dallas will need a continued healthy lineup working on its team chemistry. Getting Benn back for the game against Pittsburgh was a big step in the right direction.

"It felt good to get out there and play," Benn told regarding his return to the lineup Wednesday. "I hated having to watch games. I love the energy and confidence of the team right now." 

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