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Stars aim to wrap up top wild-card spot with one point

Dowling set to return from injury, Khudobin in net as Dallas faces Chicago in its final regular season road game

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars lineup will have a different look tonight as they take on the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center (7:30 p.m. CT; FS-SW+; KTCK) in the next-to-last game of the regular season.

The Stars are giving some key players the night off in preparation for the playoffs and giving some other players a look. Forwards Jamie Benn and Mats Zuccarello, defenseman Roman Polak, and goaltender Ben Bishop didn't make the trip to Chicago.

That means players like Justin Dowling, Brett Ritchie, and Joel L'Esperance will get bigger opportunities tonight.

"There are a lot of guys who are going to get good, quality minutes tonight," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "They are going to be able to show us what they can do for us moving forward."

Dowling is returning to the lineup after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury. Dowling was called up March 23 and played in three straight games before going out with the injury.

"I am trying to earn a spot on the playoff roster," Dowling said. "I am just trying to do anything I can to help the team win, and if I can prove I can do that in these last two games, hopefully I can prove I can do it in the playoffs as well."

Video: Stars aim to keep foot on gas in final road game

Jamie Oleksiak will draw in on defense. Oleksiak, who has been a healthy scratch 12 of the last 17 games, is the seventh defenseman right now, and there's a good chance he'll be called on at some point in the playoffs, so this is a good opportunity for him as well.

"It's really important," Montgomery said. "Inevitably someone is going to get banged up in the playoffs and have to miss a game, so he's got to be game sharp."

While several players are going to get looks in tonight's game, the focus is still on the team's play, and the Stars (42-31-7-91 points) still have some business to take care of. They need one point in the final two games to secure the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

"It's also important for our team to continue with our details," Montgomery said. "We need one point to get that [first] wild-card. Going into the playoffs playing the right way is important."

Anton Khudobin will get the start in goal tonight. Tyler Seguin will center the top line with Jason Dickinson and Alexander Radulov on his wings. Esa Lindell and John Klingberg will be the top pair on defense.


Opposition watch: Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks (35-33-12-82 points) are missing the playoffs for a second straight season.

Chicago, which was eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday, is coming off a 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis at United Center on Wednesday. Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist to set a career high with 107 points, and Jonathan Toews scored his career-best 35th goal in the win.

Corey Crawford is the expected starter in goal for Chicago tonight.


Fast facts
  • This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Stars and Blackhawks. The Stars are 1-2-0 against Chicago this season, losing 5-2 in Dallas on Dec. 20, winning 4-3 in Chicago on Feb. 21, and losing 2-1 in Dallas on Mar. 9.

  • The Stars are 19-17-4 on the road.

  • The Blackhawks are 18-14-8 at home.

  • The Stars are 18-10-3-39 points since the All-Star break.

  • The Blackhawks are 17-9-3-37 points since the All-Star break.

  • The Stars are 13-9-2 vs. the Central Division.

  • The Blackhawks are 13-7-4 vs. the Central Division.

  • The Stars rank second in the league in goals against (2.42).

  • The Blackhawks rank eighth in goals for (3.24).

  • The Stars are 7-for-17 (41.2%) on the power play over their last five games.

  • The Blackhawks are 18-for-25 (72.0%) on the penalty kill over their last seven games.

  • Stars forward Alexander Radulov has 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in his last 14 games.

  • Tyler Seguin leads the Stars in scoring with 77 points (31 goals, 46 assists).

  • Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks in scoring and ranks third in the league with 107 points (42 goals, 65 assists).


Tonight's game

Who: Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM/96.7-FM

Stars projected lineup

Jason Dickinson - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Roope Hintz - Justin Dowling - Tyler Pitlick
Joel L'Esperance - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Ben Lovejoy
Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin
Landon Bow

Scratched: Jamie Benn, Mats Zuccarello, Andrew Cogliano, Roman Polak, Valeri Nichushkin, Julius Honka
Injured: Ben Bishop (lower body), Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), Marc Methot (knee)

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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