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Meaningful finale 'much better' for Stars

Win against Nashville will give Dallas division title, top seed in West

by Steve Hunt / Correspondent

FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Stars have not finished as the top seed in the Western Conference since 2003 and have not won a division title since 2006, but they could get both with a win against the Nashville Predators on Saturday at American Airlines Center (8 p.m ET; FS-TN, FS-SW+, NHL.TV).

Dallas (49-23-9) is tied with the St. Louis Blues for first place in the West and Central Division with 107 points, but the Stars hold the advantage in the first tiebreaker (regulation/overtime wins, 47-44).

St. Louis ends the regular season Saturday against the Washington Capitals. If Dallas wins, it clinches the top seed and Central title, regardless of what the Blues do against the Capitals, the Presidents' Trophy winner and top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Stars last won the West in 2002-03 and last won a division title in 2005-06, when they were in the Pacific.

 Video: Ruff on what it would mean to win the conference

Dallas captain Jamie Benn said he likes that the regular-season finale against Nashville is a meaningful game.

"It'd mean a lot," Benn said of securing a top seed and winning the Central. "That's a pretty good accomplishment throughout the year. I think we've made some big strides this year as a team. To have a division title in a tough division is pretty special."

Dallas, which has won eight of its past 11 games, could get some injured players back. Center Jason Spezza, who missed a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday with illness, returned to practice Friday and is expected to play. Forward Patrick Eaves, who missed the Colorado game with a mid-body injury sustained in a 3-1 loss on Sunday at the Anaheim Ducks, also is likely to return.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff could choose to play defenseman Jason Demers, out the past 13 games with a shoulder injury, for the first time since March 8 at the Montreal Canadiens. Ruff called Demers available after practice Friday.

"Well, he wants to play. I think we just weigh exactly where we want to be with this; I'd like to see him play [before the playoffs start]," Ruff said. "At the same time, he's got to be ready and it's got to be the right thing to do."

 Video: COL@DAL: Jo. Benn hammers one past Pickard

Dallas is closing the regular season at home against Nashville for the second consecutive season. This will be played under different circumstances than the one on April 11, 2015.

Last season, the Stars were eliminated from playoff contention. Benn had an outside chance to win the Art Ross Trophy and responded with a hat trick and an assist in a 4-1 win to edge New York Islanders center John Tavares by one point.

Benn will not repeat as the Art Ross winner. His 88 points are second to the 103 of Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.

"This is much better. I like it this way much more," Benn said. "We can do something special as a team in the last night here and that's what we're going to try and do. We need to keep our game sharp and keep this thing rolling into the playoffs."

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