While there are just two games remaining in the regular season, there is still much for the Stars to accomplish.

They have not yet clinched the Central Division title, they still are in the race for first place in the Western Conference, and they even still have a chance at the Presidents’ Trophy for best record in the NHL. On the ice, they are hoping to see the return of injured players Jani Hakanpää and Evgenii Dadonov for at least one game, and yes, they still are figuring out a few details when it comes to player deployment.

It’s just day-to-day life in the NHL, coach Pete DeBoer said.

“You get to this time of year and things change,” DeBoer said. “You’d love to just roll everybody out and everyone gets equal ice time and let’s have fun, but that’s not real. We’re potentially playing the reigning Stanley Cup champion in the first round of the playoffs, we have to be prepared for that, and there’s no easing into that.”

Pete DeBoer on getting Oettinger in a playoff rhythm

If the playoffs started today, Dallas would face the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. Yes, the same Golden Knights who beat the Stars in the Western Conference Final last season en route to the Stanley Cup. Yes, the same Golden Knights who fired DeBoer two seasons ago. That’s a lot to digest. But the best way to do that is to simply play your best hockey.

The Stars have done that, going 10-2-0 in their past 12 games, but even during that stretch, there have been questions. Hakanpää has missed 11 games with a lower body injury, and Nils Lundkvist has taken his place in the lineup. Lundkvist played a regular role and was plus-6 in the first eight games. He has seen his ice time reduced in recent games, including playing just four minutes in the first two periods Thursday against Winnipeg.

“It’s not equal ice time for everybody,” DeBoer said. “You’ve got to make decisions to win hockey games. You come into training camp, you play the majority of the year, you give everyone an opportunity, and now you’re at the end here. Coaches have to make tough decisions on lineups, ice time, who’s on special teams, who is in net, all of those things.”

Lundkvist last season was moved out of the lineup after Thomas Harley was called up. He didn’t play a game in the playoffs. This season, there is a chance that when Hakanpää returns, Lundkvist will again become a healthy scratch, but DeBoer said that’s not the thinking. He said coaches are simply trying to use the entire roster to help win games.

“It is what it is. We’re winning a lot of games, we’re finding ways to win, not everyone is going to play the same amount of ice time,” DeBoer said. “Everyone here has gotten plenty of opportunities to show us what they can do. We’re going to need everybody in that room at certain points to get to where we want to go. That’s important. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to look like it did in November.”

Key Numbers

Dallas is 6-1-1 all-time against the Kraken, including 2-0-0 this season. 

In eight career games against Seattle, Joe Pavelski has 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists).

53.7 percent
Dallas ranks second in faceoff winning percentage at 53.9 percent. Seattle ranks 25th at 47.6 percent.

He Said It

“We want to get him in a playoff rhythm, which is an every-other-day rhythm. We feel [Scott\] Wedgewood has played a lot this year because of Jake’s injury, probably more than we anticipated, so we all feel like [Jake] is fresh. We have a week basically off before we start the playoffs, which would give him some rest, so I think our mindset now is let’s get him used to that every-other-day rhythm starting the first round of the playoffs. He’s been playing every other night for a while now, which I think is the most important thing to get used to that heading into the playoffs.”

- Stars coach Pete DeBoer on how to prepare Jake Oettinger for the postseason.

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 and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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