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Stars enjoying late-season playoff run

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- More than 22 years since making his NHL debut, Dallas Stars forward Ray Whitney has gained some insight into how the regular season typically unfolds. With Dallas scrambling to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the veteran is more than happy to share his wisdom.

"For the majority of teams, you play 70 games just to care about the last 12 of the season," Whitney said.

The Stars sit in the second wild-card position in the Western Conference heading into their game with the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Each of their final seven games will have playoff implications, with the Phoenix Coyotes in pursuit. Phoenix also has 85 points, but Dallas has two games in hand. They play each other in their season finale on April 13 in Arizona.

"You scoreboard watch and do all those things that bring the intensity up," Whitney said. "It feels a little more competitive on a nightly basis. Your mistakes get magnified, the goals you score get magnified. But when you score them and how you score them become a little less relevant."

In three seasons with the Boston Bruins, Dallas center Tyler Seguin became accustomed to starting April with a bit of cushion in the standings. But he's learned that battling down the stretch has some appeal too.

"If you're not having fun with this type of hockey, you're not a hockey player," Seguin said with a smile. "I've not been in a position in my career thus far where I'm chasing a playoff spot, but every game feels like a playoff game. The pressure on the team in these situations can really bring out the character in the locker room."

The Hurricanes' chances of making the playoffs are slim, but they turned in a solid performance in a 4-1 road win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Forwards Alexander Semin (illness) and Jiri Tlusty (upper body) did not play in that win and neither participated in the morning skate Thursday.

Forward Drayson Bowman has come down with an illness, so the Hurricanes recalled Zach Boychuk from the Charlotte Checkers. Boychuk has one goal and four points in nine games with the Hurricanes this season.

Here are the projected lineups for the Stars and Hurricanes:


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Valeri Nichushkin

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Colton Sceviour

Ray Whitney - Dustin Jeffrey - Alex Chiasson

Alex Goligoski - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Brenden Dillon

Patrik Nemeth - Sergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen

Tim Thomas

Scratched: Kevin Connauton

Injured: Erik Cole (upper body), Rich Peverley (heart surgery), Aaron Rome (lower body)


Andrei Loktionov - Eric Staal - Chris Terry

Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer

Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Elias Lindholm

Zach Boychuk - Manny Malhotra - Radek Dvorak

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk

Ron Hainsey - John-Michael Liles

Jay Harrison - Brett Bellemore

Anton Khudobin

Cam Ward

Scratches: Mike Komisarek, Justin Peters

Injuries: Jiri Tlusty (upper body), Alexander Semin (illness), Drayson Bowman (illness)

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