The Dallas Stars are peaking at an ideal time, and they’ll try to keep their late-season surge going when they visit the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.
The Stars are unbeaten (6-0-2) in regulation in their last eight games, and a victory on Thursday would give Dallas a season-high five-game winning streak.
The last four of those wins came as part of a 4-0-1 homestand that concluded with back-to-back wins over Detroit. The Stars won a 3-2 shootout on Monday before earning two more points in a 5-2 victory over the Red Wings on Tuesday.
As a result, the Stars’ postseason chances have been revived. Dallas (19-14-12, 50 points) now sits just outside the four playoff positions in Central Division, sandwiched between the fourth-place Nashville Predators and the sixth-place Chicago Blackhawks.
If the Stars want to return to the playoffs, a daunting challenge awaits down the stretch. The Stars play nine of their last 11 games on the road, beginning with games in Detroit on Thursday and Saturday.
“We knew we needed to have a successful homestand to get us back in the hunt. It wasn’t that long ago we were 12 points back (in the playoff race),” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said. “It’s not like the schedule is going to get any easier because of the nine road games we have coming up. … Most important thing is step by step, get back in the hunt. We’re back in the hunt and now we’ve got to manage it as best as we can.”
The Red Wings (16-25-7, 39 points) couldn’t recover from a bad start on Tuesday, allowing Dallas to build a 4-0 lead after 24 minutes of play. Goalie Jonathan Bernier was removed from the game after allowing four goals on 12 shots, although forward Sam Gagner felt the Wings didn’t provide much defensive support.
“The chances we gave up were grade-A chances,” Gagner said. “We let their guys get inside of us, and I think we shoot ourselves in the foot … and then we’re chasing the game.”
Thomas Greiss stopped all 11 shots faced in relief of Bernier and could be the favorite to start on Thursday. Greiss has a 3-1-3 record and .937 save percentage over his last nine games.
Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin has been ruled out for Thursday’s contest after leaving the previous game late in the third period with an upper-body injury. Larkin left the ice shortly after scoring his ninth goal of the season, which brought the Wings within two goals in the final four minutes of play.
Stars forward Roope Hintz and defenseman Miro Heiskanen both missed Tuesday’s game and are day-to-day with lower-body injuries, Bowness said.
Hintz has been bothered by this lingering lower-body problem for much of the season, yet it hasn’t slowed his production. The forward is second on the Stars in points (14 goals, 23 assists) and is on a six-game points streak.
Jake Oettinger has started three of Dallas’ last four games in net, though the Stars have been in good hands with either Oettinger or Anton Khudobin between the pipes. The two goaltenders have combined for a 2.24 goals-against average and .916 save percentage over the Stars’ 45 games.
The Stars are 5-1-0 against the Red Wings this season.
–Field Level Media