WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Both the Stars and Winnipeg Jets are battling back from slow starts and both are pushing to get back into a playoff spot, so this is a pretty big game.
Dallas has won four straight and seven of the last eight. Winnipeg is 3-0-1 in its last four games. The Jets sit with 19 points (9-7-1) after 17 games. The Stars are at 17 points (8-8-1) after 17 games, and Arizona is at 20 points (9-6-2) after 17 games in the second wild-card spot.
The rest of the league has pretty much caught up to the Stars in games played, so we're getting a clearer look at the standings now. The team that wins today's game is in a pretty good place. The team that loses … well, it's only one game, but it creates more of that stress that seemed to hurt the Stars earlier in the season.
Video: Montgomery on plan for goalies during four-game trip
Dallas is coming off a stretch of four days without a game, so there is concern in how it will react. It also has lost defenseman John Klingberg for 2-4 weeks, so there will be some adjustment there, as well. Andrej Sekera is back after missing four games from injuries caused by a collision with the boards, so he should probably step into Klingberg's spot on a pairing with Esa Lindell.
Dallas had all sorts of trouble with Winnipeg for a couple of years, but went 3-1-0 against the Jets last season. The Stars are 3-1-0 against the Central so far this season, so continuing both trends would be a nice way to start off this four-game road trip through Western Canada.
What to watch
The history of this series is that the best players on both teams light it up.
For Winnipeg, Blake Wheeler has 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) in 30 games, Mark Scheifele has 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 25 games, and Patrik Laine has 20 points (15 goals, five assists) in 13 games. The Jets have a history of being one of the top scoring teams in the league and they typically enjoy that history against the Stars.
They currently sit 22nd in scoring at 2.71 goals per game, so we'll see if more recent history holds in this one.
Dallas, meanwhile, typically gets great play from its top scorers. Tyler Seguin has 42 points (23 goals, 19 assists) in 36 career games against the Jets, while Jamie Benn has 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in 30 games, and Alexander Radulov has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 12 games. Seguin last season had nine points (five goals, four assists) in four games against the Jets.
Dallas ranks 29th in goal scoring this season (2.41 goals per game), so getting a breakout game against the Jets would be welcomed.
Video: Andrej Sekera excited to return to Stars' lineup
Anton Khudobin is in goal. He is 0-2-1 in three career games against the Jets with a 2.96 GAA and .894 save percentage.
The Stars are missing Roope Hintz (lower body) and John Klingberg (lower body), so they'll have to adjust to that. Denis Gurianov has jumped up to the top line and Jamie Benn has moved to the second line to balance out the scoring, but don't be surprised if head coach Jim Montgomery puts the Benn-Seguin-Radulov line together at some point.
Andrej Sekera is expected to play beside Esa Lindell, and Jamie Oleksiak is expected to be paired with Miro Heiskanen, but also don't be surprised if you see Lindell-Heiskanen together at times.
Video: Polak on opening night injury, feeling 'pretty good'
By the numbers
That's the amount of times Winnipeg has been shorthanded this season (2.1 times per game), least in the NHL. That's a huge improvement for a Jets team that has had discipline problems in the past. Winnipeg ranked 23rd in times shorthanded last season at 3.04 times per game.
After a slow start, the Stars are climbing up the rankings for goaltending and team defense stats. Dallas ranks second in goals against at 2.41, third in shots against at 29.7 and fifth in save percentage at .919.
The Jets have been devastated by injuries and departures on defense, but Neal Pionk has stepped in and done a great job. He has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and is plus-7 in 17 games.
He said it
"I thought that, honestly, we were so concerned about not getting away from our identity that we probably were, I was, too defensive-minded. That's the No. 1 takeback."
-- Stars coach Jim Montgomery on what he has learned during the four-day break as he went back and studied the first month of the season
Stars projected lineup
Denis Gurianov - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Jason Dickinson - Joe Pavelski
Mattias Janmark - Justin Dowling - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Esa Lindell - Andrej Sekera
Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen
Joel Hanley - Taylor Fedun
Scratched: D Gavin Bayreuther
Injuries: D John Klingberg (lower body), C Roope Hintz (lower body), D Roman Polak (sternum), D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.