The teams enter tonight’s game tied with 52 points apiece, though the Stars have two games in hand. They trail the Calgary Flames, holders of the second Wild Card spot, by three points. The playoff race is tight: St. Louis (with 53 points in 50 games) and Vancouver (52 in 50) occupy the narrow ground between the Flames, Stars and Jets. It’s not a stretch to say two points tonight could mean the difference between the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the NHL Draft Lottery.
“I think every team knows that now’s the time to make a push,” said Stars forward Adam Cracknell. “It’s obviously crucial that you don’t want to give away points. I think if we want to make a run, we’ve got two [wins] in a row right now and just have to keep that feeling going, learn from what’s given us success and keep doing it.”
Both the Stars and Jets put two-game win streaks on the line tonight. Could that, combined with the developing playoff picture, ratchet up the intensity of tonight’s divisional contest?
“Yeah, definitely,” said Stephen Johns. “I think our focus coming back from [the All-Star] break is, ‘the playoffs start now’ for us, and we have to get every point we can.” The Stars defenseman added, “Two in a row is big, but we need to get a big win tonight, especially against the guys we’re fighting with.”
Winnipeg Jets at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:30 pm CST
Broadcast channels – FS-SW, TSN3
2016-17 Season Series: October 25 – Stars 3, Jets 2
October 27 – Jets 4, Stars 1
November 8 – Jets 8, Stars 2
Winnipeg Jets: 24-25-4 – 52 Points
Road Record: 11-14-3
Hot Players: Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, Bryan Little, Andrew Copp, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey
Key Injuries: Drew Stafford, Marko Dano, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot
Andrew Copp – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers – Bryan Little – Patrik Laine
Shawn Matthias – Adam Lowry – Joel Armia
Mathieu Perreault – Nic Petan – Chris Thorburn
Josh Morrissey – Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom – Jacob Trouba
Mark Stuart – Paul Postma
Dallas Stars: 21-20-10 – 52 Points
Home Record: 14-7-6
Hot Players: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves
Key Injuries: Johnny Oduya, Jamie Oleksiak, Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel – Tyler Seguin – Jason Spezza
Lauri Korpikoski – Adam Cracknell – Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Patrik Nemeth
Jordie Benn – Stephen Johns
1) The Jets’ lineup gets a boost tonight, as forward Mathieu Perreault returns after missing three games with a broken thumb. For one night, at least, he’ll slot in on the fourth line, with Nic Petan and Chris Thorburn.
2) Julius Honka and Curtis McKenzie skated late this morning, so they’ll be healthy scratches for the Stars tonight. Jiri Hudler was nowhere to be found, but the Czech winger told THW last week that he had a baby due sometime this week, so that likely explains his absence.
3) Perhaps the main reason the Stars and Jets find themselves so close in the standings (and just outside the playoff picture) is an inability to put together a real win streak. The Stars have won three in a row once in 2016-17, while a Jets win tonight would give the visitors their first three-game streak of the season.
4) Remarkably, every one of the Jets’ top-six forwards is averaging a point per game (or better) over the last five games. How will the Stars stop them? In the defensive zone, says Johns, it’s important to contain the Jets’ top players by keeping them on the perimeter. Cracknell, on the other hand, stressed the need to avoid turnovers and penalties while pressuring the Jets in the offensive zone.