The Dallas Stars continue their push for a playoff spot when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at American Airlines Center.
The Stars come into tonight with a two point lead over Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with both teams having three games left.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot. We are just going to take it one game at a time,” said Stars defenseman Jordie Benn. “We are pretty excited for tonight. Obviously we are down 1-0 tonight, but we’ve got 60 minutes to win a hockey game.”
This is the make-up game for the March 10 contest that was postponed due to Rich Peverley’s cardiac event on the bench. Tonight’s contest will be a full 60-minute game with Columbus holding the 1-0 lead it had when the March 10 game was suspended.
The first goal in a game often is key and could be even more important tonight.
“This one is huge. Obviously you don’t want to go down 2-0,” said Benn. “It’s a different scenario, never been in a game where a team is already leading 1-0. We just have to go in there like a normal game, even if they end up do scoring that goal, it’s not a big deal, we’ve got 60 minutes and we have enough firepower up front that we can score a few goals.”
With the league having to find a spot in the schedule to play this game, the Stars are having to play their fourth game in five nights. This will be the fifth in seven nights for Columbus. Both teams are on the second night of back-to-backs.
But finding a little extra energy shouldn’t be hard for both teams. The Stars and Blue Jackets both are zeroing on playoff spots. The Stars can move closer to that spot with a win, Columbus can clinch a spot with two points.
“We should be able to overcome [any fatigue] with the adrenaline rush of where we are at,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We know it’s tough, they played last night too. We just look at it as back-to-back games, we don’t want to be digging any further back than that.”
And they look at it as an opportunity to grab a big two points in the playoff race.
“We want this,” said Benn. “Every game is getting bigger and bigger. With only three left, this one is huge.”
The Stars held an optional skate this morning. The fourth line of Erik Cole, Dustin Jeffrey and Alex Chiasson, which saw limited time in last night’s game, skated. So did defensemen Kevin Connauton and Aaron Rome and goaltender Tim Thomas.
The Stars are likely to go with the same group of forwards and defensemen as last night, but Ruff would not make an announcement as far as whether Kari Lehtonen or Thomas would start in goal.
“I’ll either go with Lehts or Timmy,” Ruff said when asked about the goaltending for tonight.
There is no word on who will start in goal for the Blue Jackets. Forward Nathan Horton, who will be credited with the goal at the beginning of tonight’s game, is out. He did not travel with the Blue Jackets after leaving last night’s game against Phoenix with a lower body injury.
Who: Columbus Blue Jackets 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 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
Kari Lehtonen/Tim Thomas
Blue Jackets projected lineup
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Matt Frattin
Blake Comeau – Artem Anisimov - Mark Letestu
Corey Tropp - Derek MacKenzie – Jack Skille
James Wisniewski - Fedor Tyutin
Jack Johnson – Dalton Prout
Ryan Murray - David Savard
Sergei Bobrovsky/Curtis McElhinney
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.