The Dallas Stars begin their final push for a playoff spot when they take on the Nashville Predators tonight at American Airlines Center.
“We’ve been trying so hard from day one of training camp, and now it’s down to this last week,” said Stars forward Antoine Roussel. “We have to bear down, win tonight and go from there, win the next one and go from there. It’s one game at a time.”
The Stars have a one point lead over the Phoenix Coyotes for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with four games remaining for both teams. The Stars are trying to secure a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
“There’ a positive mindset in this room,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We’re a confident group that we can get the job done here. We’re taking it one game at a time, we can’t be looking forward and we’ve got a big one tonight starting with Nashville.”
Tonight’s game will kick off a stretch of three straight at home for the Stars, who are 6-0-1 in their last seven games at the AAC and 8-1-1 over the last ten.
“I think our fans, playing in front of our fans, the energy in our building, we’ve played well here of late and played some real good hockey,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “If you asked me if I wanted to play at home or on the road, I’d pick home.”
It appears the Stars will go with the same lineup as last game. Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice this morning, so it appears he’ll be making his tenth straight start in net for the Stars. The forward line combinations and defense pairs are expected to be the same.
Ray Whitney, who has missed the last two games with a lower body injury, did not skate this morning and remains out. Ruff said Whitney is day to day. Aaron Rome is available to play after missing time with a lower body injury, but he is expected to be a healthy scratch on defense along with Kevin Connauton.
Pekka Rinne is expected to start in goal for the Predators, who have won three straight and are 6-1-1 over their last eight games. The Predators are still alive in the playoff race, but are hanging on by a thread.
“Obviously this one is probably do-or-die for us. If we don’t win tonight, we can’t make the playoffs,” said Predators forward Patric Hornqvist. “I know our chances are really, really small, but as long as you have a chance you have to work. This group, they never quit working. We have to still work and do the right things out there, and as long as there’s a chance, we’re going to do that.”
Who: Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus (Channel guide)
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Erik Cole – Dustin Jeffrey – Alex Chiasson
Alex Goligoski –Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Patrik Nemeth – Sergei Gonchar
Predators projected lineup
Matt Cullen – Mike Fisher – Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque – Calle Jarnkrok – Craig Smith
Nick Spaling – Colin Wilson – Viktor Stalberg
Rich Clune – Paul Gaustad – Eric Nystrom
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Seth Jones – Victor Bartley
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
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.