Crucial game for the Stars in Columbus
The Stars take on a struggling Columbus Blue Jackets side at the Nationwide Arena tonight. The Jackets' season is practically over as they currently sit rock bottom of the NHL with just 36 points from 53 games. In contrast, the Stars season is still very much alive, as they continue to fight to break into the top eight in the Western Conference, currently sitting 2 points behind eighth.
Dallas comes into tonight’s game after suffering a disappointing 4-1 loss to divisional rivals Phoenix in Texas on Tuesday. Despite having more shots in the game, they lacked the cutting edge and didn’t finish off the few chances that they created. Dallas have constantly relied on Kari Lehtonen throughout the year, and, as the Phoenix game showed, he isn't going to save the team in every game.
Columbus comes into the game looking for their third straight victory, something they have played for just twice this season. Curtis Sanford will most probably be in goal for the Jackets tonight, as he has started the last 3 games, stopping 91 of 97 shots with a save percentage of .938. Although it isn’t confirmed yet, it is expected that Kari Lehtonen will occupy the crease for the Stars.
It has been a very inconsistent season for the Stars, and coach Gulutzan has said that he cant shuffle anything around anymore and the only solution to getting out of the recent slump is by putting the effort in and showing high levels of intensity on the ice. In a recent interview he said, "You run the risk of how much experimenting do you do? We might change some things just to try something different, but changing the lines is just reshuffling the cards. There's no magic elixir or potion. This is about digging in."
Despite the Jackets sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Stars know the threats that they do pose. A part of the game they certainly thrive in is on the face-off dot. They rank seventh in the league in face-offs won and with face-offs being a part of the Stars game that struggles at times, Columbus will look to exploit this.
It really is a massive game for the Stars as they look to get the ball rolling and fight for a spot in the playoffs. If Dallas are to make the post season, Columbus are teams that they must beat. Puck drop is at 7pm ET in Ohio.