With the race within the Central Division being so close and with less than 30 games remaining in the regular season, so much is at stake night-in, night-out for the Dallas Stars.
Over the past two weeks, the Stars have answered that pressure with 3 wins and outscoring opponents 12-3 in the month of February thus far.
Dallas is set to face three teams in four days with Chicago on the road Thursday, Pittsburgh at home Friday, and Vancouver at home on Sunday.
However, this upcoming weekend holds even more importance with a trio of games that could help the Stars move up a spot into the third spot in the Central.
All three opponents have less points throughout the season so far than Dallas and could realistically be wins for the red-hot Stars. With a solid weekend, the Stars could jump the St. Louis Blues who currently are only one point ahead of Dallas, and with a game in hand.
St. Louis has hardly been slipping with a 6-4-0 record over their last 10 but take on three teams in playoff position with Colorado, Winnipeg, and Pittsburgh this weekend.
Looking ahead to the three matchups and how the Stars fare in the different matchups is an encouraging thing as well.
Dallas Stars @ Chicago Blackhawks – Thursday, Feb 8, 7:30pm CT
The Stars and Blackhawks have met three times already on the season, and Dallas has won all three. However, two of the three matchups have gone past the point of regulation.
Dallas took the first meeting won by Mattias Janmark’s OT goal 51 seconds into the extra period, and the second matchup going all the way to a shootout.
In the third meeting Chicago was shut out 4-0 and Tyler Seguin had a pair of goals.
Over his career Patrick Kane has been a real problem for the Stars with 52 career points (24G, 28A) in 42 career matchups. In the three meetings this season Kane already has a goal and assist.
If the Stars can slow Kane down and limit the damage from the former MVP, Dallas should be in good position to win their fourth in a row.
Dallas will have Ben Bishop in goal again tonight and the same starting lineup will be back on the ice as last game, according to Mark Stepneski.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Dallas Stars – Friday, Feb 9, 7:30pm CT
Friday’s matchup with Pittsburgh will arguably be the toughest of the three weekend games. The Penguins, fresh off a win over the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s top point getters on Tuesday, will be rested and in Dallas before the Stars will be.
Dallas coming off the divisional game against Chicago, may want to go with a few lineup changes and maybe put Kari Lehtonen in net.
Phil Kessel is the leading points getter for Pittsburgh and Matt Murray has been the main goaltender with Tristian Jarry mixing in every few games.
Be prepared to see a heavy dose of that star-studded attack and Murray to be in net against the Stars on Friday.
Vancouver Canucks @ Dallas Stars – Sunday, Feb 11, 3pm CT
Following the off day on Saturday, Sunday poses a different sort of challenge for Dallas against Vancouver.
The Canucks will also be heading into Sunday’s game on three games in four days set but with the second lowest points total in the Western Conference.
This matchup will be tough for the Stars mostly because of the potential let down from either a couple of hard-fought wins or even a few tough losses. With this stretch so front-loaded for Dallas and with the Canucks with nothing to lose, there is a chance the Stars would be out of rhythm early on.
In terms of the matchup itself, this will be the second meeting between the two sides with Dallas winning the first meeting on the road in 2-1 in overtime in October.
Dallas won that game because of the strong game from Ben Bishop who stopped 38 of 39 shots and opened up Alexander Radulov to score the game winner in OT.
If the Stars are going to have more of the same success throughout the entire weekend, they’ll need a strong game from Bishop again on Sunday.
Three games in the next four days will be tough for the Stars to pull off. But if they can, they will take a huge leap into securing themselves in the thick of the hunt for playoff seeding and, believe it or not, maybe even a division title.
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