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Stars Excited About Chance to Clinch Playoff Spot

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars come into tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues on the brink of clinching a playoff spot. A win tonight and they are in the postseason for the first time since 2008.

“We are very excited,” said center Tyler Seguin. “It’s a great team in the other room and it’s going to be a hard game. St. Louis is fighting for positioning and we’re fighting for a chance to clinch the playoffs. It would be nice to do it before a possible do-or-die game on Sunday. We’ve been going one game at a time and tonight is a good opportunity.”

They don’t want to give another breath of life to the Phoenix Coyotes. If the Stars don’t win tonight, there’s still a chance that final regular season game against the Coyotes could decide who gets in. The Stars could end the speculation about all those scenarios with two points against the Blues.

“It means a lot. We want to get it done tonight,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We don’t want to leave it up to chance in Phoenix or depend on another team tomorrow night. We’re excited, we’re ready to go and it should be a good game tonight.”

And they’d like to get it done on home ice.

“We’ve worked hard to get to this point,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “You’d like to have a game even sooner when you’re clinching, but it’s an opportunity in front of our home fans to get done what we’ve been trying to get done the whole year.”

The Stars are coming off a stretch of four games in five days where they went 2-2-0. They had the day off on Thursday.

“I don’t think anyone came to the rink yesterday,” said Seguin. “I think everyone feels refreshed today and we are ready for this big opportunity tonight.”

“I definitely think that the day off was the only thing we could do. I think even bringing them into the rink would’ve created some anxiety. Then you’re sitting on the heels of a tough, emotional game,” said Ruff. “And to bring them in and have them go through that again would have been just the wrong thing to do.”

Kari Lehtonen will start in goal tonight for the Stars, who are expected to go with the same group of forwards and defensemen as last game. Kevin Connauton and Aaron Rome will be healthy scratches.

Ray Whitney, who has missed the last four games with a lower body injury, skated this morning. He is out tonight and Ruff wasn’t sure if he’d be ready by Sunday’s regular season finale at Phoenix.

“It’s his first time on the ice and he looks good. I am surprised he looks as good as does,” Ruff said. “There’s an opportunity there (to play Sunday), but I don’t know if we would risk sticking him into play. But it definitely means he is going to be ready to play within the week.”

Blues hit hard by injuries

The Blues, who have lost four straight games including last night in Minnesota, are banged up. They’ll be without forwards T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy, Vladimir Sobotka and Vladimir Tarasenko for tonight’s game. The Blues have called up three players from the AHL, including highly regarded prospect Ty Rattie.

“We’ve been [in scramble mode] since Backes has gone out, Backes and no Tarasenko so we’ve been in the middle of it,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “We’ve been able to pretty much the whole year stay healthy. We would have preferred better timing, but it is what it is and it’s all about who’s in now. You never know, everybody goes through this. We just got it at the end of year. You got to just stay focused on the guys you have. The playoffs start on Thursday and I would imagine we’re hopeful that all or most of these guys are back for Thursday, but I would say none of them will play Sunday either.”

Friday’s game

Who: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinValeri Nichushkin
Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt
Shawn HorcoffVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour
Erik ColeDustin JeffreyAlex Chiasson

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley
Jordie BennBrenden Dillon
Patrik NemethSergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen
Tim Thomas

Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Aaron Rome

Injured: Ray Whitney (lower body), Rich Peverley (irregular heartbeat)

Blues projected lineup

Alexander Steen - Steve Ott – Jaden Schwartz
Dmitrij Jaskin – Patrik Berglund – Ty Rattie
Chris Porter – Maxim Lapierre – Ryan Reaves
Magnus Paajarvi – Keith Aucoin – Adam Cracknell

Alex Pietrangelo – Jay Bouwmeester
Barret Jackman – Kevin Shattenkirk
Carlo Colaiacovo – Roman Polak

Ryan Miller
Brian Elliott

Scratched: Ian Cole, Jordan Leopold, Niklas Lundstrom

Injured: David Backes (lower body), Brenden Morrow (lower body), Derek Roy (upper body), T.J. Oshie (upper body), Vladimir Sobotka (lower body), Vladimir Tarasenko (hand)

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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