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Stars host Blues with chance to clinch playoff berth

by Mike Battaglino

BLUES (52-21-7) at STARS (39-30-11)


Last 10: St. Louis 5-5-0; Dallas 6-4-0

Season series: The Dallas Stars have won the past two games against the St. Louis Blues after losing the first two by a combined score of 9-3. Each team has won once in overtime.

Big story: Dallas can clinch its first Stanley Cup Playoff berth since 2008 with a win. It's possible because the Phoenix Coyotes lost their sixth in a row Thursday, 2-0 at the Nashville Predators.

St. Louis has lost five of seven to fall out of first place in the Central Division. The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Thursday to give the Avalanche 111 points, same as the Blues, with two games to go, but Colorado has more regulation and overtime wins (47-43).

Team Scope:

Blues: On March 28, St. Louis led the Central by eight points over the Chicago Blackhawks and nine over Colorado. The Blues held a one-point lead for the Presidents' Trophy over the Boston Bruins, who now lead them by four.


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"It's not fun losing," forward Jaden Schwartz told the Blues website Thursday. "These are big, important games for us, and it's a big time of the year. We're confident in here that we can turn this around, and we have two more games to do that."

Forward T.J. Oshie was injured in the second period and will not play Friday, and forward David Backes (foot) might not play again in the regular season.

"[Oshie is] such an important player to our team," Schwartz said. "At this time of the year, you don't want to see injuries like that. You just hope that he's ready to go soon and he's feeling better."

Stars: Twelve Dallas players have never participated in the NHL postseason, and four others haven't in at least five years.

"A lot of players like myself, first time in key games like this, there are learning points and learning curves to everything, and I think it's just how you come back and how you play the next game," defenseman Brenden Dillon told the Dallas Morning News after a 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday.

Dallas had 12 giveaways Wednesday after 21 in a 3-2 shootout win against Nashville on Tuesday. This will be the Stars' fifth game in seven days.

"There's two things [the giveaways tell me]: There's some fatigue in our game, and some guys are feeling the pressure," coach Lindy Ruff said. "I've already talked to several guys about the fact that we need to make plays and trust that the guy is going to be there. If the opposition makes a great play defending us, I can live with that. I don't want the turnovers where we throw it at the wall or into the middle of the ice. That's something I've got to work and get these guys over."

Dallas would secure the second wild card in the Western Conference with a win Friday or Sunday against Phoenix.

Goalie Kari Lehtonen will start after Tim Thomas lost to Columbus.

Who's hot: Blues forward Alexander Steen had two assists Thursday and has nine points in his past seven games. Schwartz has two goals in three games, 25 this season. … Stars forward Tyler Seguin has seven points in his past six games and with 83 points is third in the NHL in scoring, behind Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (103) and Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks (87). Forward Jamie Benn has six points in a four-game streak.

Injury report: Blues center Derek Roy (upper body), forward Vladimir Sobotka (lower body), forward Brenden Morrow (lower body) and forward Vladimir Taransenko (thumb) are out. Backes reportedly is in a walking boot. … Stars forward Ray Whitney (lower body) and defenseman Aaron Rome (lower body) are day-to-day.

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