Mikko Koivu, Greg Zanon, Adam Burish

Dallas Stars face must-win (in regulation or overtime) game against Minnesota Wild

In case you missed it, the Chicago Blackhawks lost to the Detroit Red Wings in regulation, giving the Dallas Stars an improbable chance to make the playoffs after a season full of twists and turns. The goal is straightforward and simple, even if attaining it might not be: all the Stars need is a win in regulation or overtime and they’ll make the playoffs. Anything less — including a shootout win — and Chicago will be the eighth seed instead.

With that in mind, the question is painfully obvious: can the Stars do it? Here’s a preview of tonight’s all-or-nothing game.

The Stars’ recent dominant performances against the Wild

Going into tonight’s game, there’s really no doubt about it: the Stars own the Wild. They are 3-0-0 against Minnesota in the 2010-11 season, but the domination expands beyond that. Dallas is on a six-game winning streak against them and are 11-2-0 in the two clubs’ last 13 games.

There are two ways to look at this trend. An optimist (and probably a realist) would say the Stars are the odds-on favorites. Yet a pessimist might wonder if something has to give; can Dallas really keep beating up on Minnesota?

The historical aspect

Much like the Red Wings’ rivalry with the Blackhawks, the Wild might have a slightly higher amount of energy in this one based on the opponent they hope to spite, even if they will face their last game of the season while Detroit wanted to build playoff momentum. It’s probably true that Wild players don’t care that much about the fact that the Dallas Stars were once the Minnesota North Stars, but you know who does care?

Minnesota hockey fans, that’s who. Don’t be surprised if there’s a charged atmosphere because of that history.

Lineups

As we mentioned in today’s starting goalies post, Jose Theodore is expected to be in Minnesota’s net while workhorse Kari Lehtonen will play for Dallas as usual. Avoiding Niklas Backstrom is obviously a bonus for the Stars, but Theodore has been quite efficient as his backup.

Here are the remaining starting lineups for both teams, via Hockey Wilderness.

(click to enlarge)

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So, the question is: can the Stars finally make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season? The numbers are certainly on their side and as a fan of legitimate competition, it’s exciting to know that a shootout win won’t cut it.

The Blackhawks have no one to blame but themselves for being in the situation they are in. Likewise, the Stars will face about six months of regret if they cannot beat the Minnesota Wild.

For hockey fans, this is what it’s all about. If you want to follow the action, stick with PHT and check out the game at 6:00 pm ET on NHL Network. If it’s anywhere near as exciting as the Red Wings-Blackhawks game, this game should be a real treat.

Fight video: Zack Kassian racks up penalty minutes, faces Brian Strait

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Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”

The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.

Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.

It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.

Could there be more?

Isles chase Nilsson from Oilers’ net in less than 12 minutes

Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.

Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.

He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).

Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.

As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.

Ovi scores 30th as Caps beat Flyers for third straight victory

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Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.

Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.

The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.

It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).

But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.

Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:

Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.

Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.

The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.

 

Jets’ Stafford to have disciplinary hearing after high-sticking Holden

Colorado Avalanche's Nick Holden (2) hits Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford will meet with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden on Saturday night, the DoPS announced this afternoon.

There was no immediate video of the incident available. Stafford wasn’t penalized on the play, which occurred during the third period; Holden finished the final frame with 10 shifts for 6:46 of ice time.

Stafford, 30, has a clean disciplinary history and hasn’t been fined or suspended during his 10-year NHL career.