The Dallas Stars will try to make it five wins in a row when they take on the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall place tonight.
And it is another big two points for the Stars as they try to continue their strong late-season push for a playoff spot. With their win in Calgary Wednesday night, the Stars pulled to within six points of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. But they are eight points back heading into tonight’s game after Winnipeg, which holds that second wild-card spot, defeated Montreal last night.
The Stars will have to jump over the fourth place team in the Pacific Division as well. Right now, that is Calgary, which is five points ahead of the Stars. Or by the end of the night it could be Los Angeles, which is six points ahead.
The Stars have only eight games remaining, so there is little margin for error.
“Everybody is not going to keep winning. And some of those teams play each other. If we keep winning we can keep some pressure on the other teams,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We are playing well and our goal is to win them all. It’s one game at a time, but there is ground to be made up. Within three or four days you can make up three or four points, and I think we can do that.”
Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal tonight. He’s won his past nine decisions on the road. He’s 7-1-0 in his past eight games overall with a 1.86 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
“Most teams in real good stretches are driven by their goaltender. I don’t think there is any secret there,” Ruff said. “You look at his numbers and those numbers are around the best in the league. And certainly Lehts has been a big part of it for us.”
Nichushkin to AHL for conditioning
The Dallas Stars activated forward Valeri Nichushkin from injured reserve Friday and loaned him to the Texas Stars of the AHL on a conditioning assignment. Nichushkin, who has been out since November due to hip surgery, is expected to play up to three games with Texas starting tonight. He’ll return to Dallas next week.
Oilers watch: Bachman in goal
Former Stars goaltender Richard Bachman will get the start in goal tonight for the Oilers. This will be his first game against his former team. Bachman has spent most of the season in the AHL. He is 0-2-0 with a 5.26 goals-against average and .854 save percentage in four appearances with Edmonton this season. His last game was March 12 when he stopped 19 of 21 shots in a relief appearance against Pittsburgh.
“For me, I am just excited to be playing again,” Bachman said. “It hasn’t been too long but it has been long enough where you get that itch to get back on the ice again to get some game time. I am just excited to play in general.”
Former Dallas forward Matt Fraser, who has been out since March 16 with a concussion, is expected to return to the lineup tonight.
Edmonton will be without defensemen Andrew Ference and Mark Fayne and forwards Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks.
Who: Dallas Stars at Edmonton Oilers
Where: Rexall Place
When: 8:30 p.m.
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Cody Eakin – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzie – Shawn Horcoff – Brett Ritchie
Jyrki Jokipakka – Alex Goligoski
Patrik Nemeth – John Klingberg
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Ryan Garbutt, Travis Moen
Conditioning assignment: Valeri Nichushkin
Injured: Trevor Daley (knee)
Oilers projected lineup
Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Teddy Purcell - Derek Roy – Nail Yakupov
Taylor Hall – Anton Lander – Andrew Miller
Luke Gazdic - Rob Klinkhammer - Matt Fraser
Oscar Klefbom - Justin Schultz
Martin Marincin - Nikita Nikitin
Brandon Davidson – Keith Aulie
Injured: Tyler Pitlick (lacerated spleen), Viktor Fasth (knee), Iiro Pakarinen (knee), Andrew Ference (upper body), Boyd Gordon (back), Mark Fayne (shoulder), Matt Hendricks (back)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.