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)

***

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.

Duchene: Avs had ‘a little too much fear’ of losing

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 27:  Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche skates away as the Detroit Red Wings celebrate the game winning goal by Brad Richards #17 at 19:00 of the third period at Coors Field during the 2016 Coors Light Stadium Series game on February 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Red Wings defeated the Avalanche 5-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

For the second consecutive season, the Colorado Avalanche missed the playoffs. Granted, they were closer to making them in 2015-16 than they were in 2014-15, but that’s no consolation prize.

The Avalanche were in the thick of the playoff race down the stretch. They battled the Minnesota Wild for the final Wild Card spot in the West, but in the end, they came up five points short. The pressure of the postseason chase may have been a bit too much for them to handle because they went 1-8-0 (yes, you read that correctly) in their final nine games.

Three seasons ago, the Avs surprised many when they won the Central Division by collecting an incredible 112 points. It seemed as though their young roster would be dominant for a number of years. Unfortunately for the Avs, that hasn’t been the case.

Now, forward Matt Duchene believes they need to change their mindset if they want to be back in the playoffs next year.

“We didn’t take control, we didn’t go out there every night with the confidence we needed to win and to go and take what we needed to take,” Duchene said, per the Denver Post. “We had a little too much fear, I think, of losing and what we had to lose and I think that’s something we all can think about this summer. It’s a change of mindset. All the tools are there. We have a very good team, so we want to challenge for a playoff spot next season and hopefully a Stanley Cup.”

Duchene put up some solid numbers this season. He led the Avs in goals (30) and points (57). Those totals were good enough to earn him a spot on Team Canada’s World Cup roster. But overall, the Avs weren’t so good. They ranked 19th in goals scored with 216 and 23rd in goals against with 240.

Improved play in their own end would certainly benefit them and getting a bounce-back year from goalie Semyon Varlamov would definitely help too. The 28-year-old had a 2.81 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage in 57 games.

Is time running out for head coach Patrick Roy? Another lackluster regular season in 2016-17 may lead to some significant changes.

Matt Nieto should be available to play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 03:  Matt Nieto #83 of the San Jose Sharks skates against the Nashville Predators during the second period of Game Three of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 3, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The San Jose Sharks are confident that forward Matt Nieto will be available for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh on Monday night. Whether he actually plays or not is a different story.

The 23-year-old suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of San Jose’s second round series against Nashville and he hasn’t suited up since.

Nieto might not be one of the biggest names on the Sharks roster, but he’s definitely a useful piece of the puzzle.

“He brings speed,” head coach Peter DeBoer said, per NHL.com. “He’s one of our faster forwards. He’s another guy that gives us a little bit of a different dimension and a little bit of a different element.

“I’ll know more by Monday, but I’d anticipate that he’d be available.”

Nieto practiced with his teammates on Saturday, but he didn’t skate on any of the Sharks’ top four lines. It doesn’t look like DeBoer will make changes from the team that beat St. Louis in Game 6 of the conference final, but a lot can change between now and the start of Game 1.

Nieto has one goal and three points in 11 postseason games in 2016.

Chiasson’s agent expects his client to be moved this summer

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 10:  Alex Chiasson #90 of the Ottawa Senators skates prior to the game against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 10, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alex Chiasson has been in Ottawa for each of the last two seasons, but he’s fallen way short of expectations.

Chiasson was a key piece of the trade that saw Jason Spezza head to Dallas in 2014. The Sens received two prospects, a draft pick and Chiasson in the deal. During his two years in Ottawa, he’s scored 19 goals and 40 points in 153 games. It simply hasn’t worked out the way either side had hoped.

Now, it sounds like his camp is expecting him to be moved before the start of next season.

“I think that’s a potential scenario, but I don’t know if you ever really know if anything materializes until it happens,” agent Kent Hughes said, per The Hockey News. “But yeah, (a trade) wouldn’t surprise me.”

Chiasson may have struggled in the last two years, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see multiple teams inquire about him. He’s still just 25-years-old, he has size (6’4, 205 pounds), and he’s set to become a restricted free agent on July 1st. Whatever contract he signs will likely be pretty affordable.

“I think at the end of the day, for a lack of a better term, it’s the lack of a successful marriage, I guess,” added Hughes. “You get to a point where you either decide you’re going to say to an organization, ‘move on’ or you’re going to continue to try, but as you continue to do that, your asset continues to diminish in value.”

P.K. Subban takes Canada 2016 World Cup ‘snub’ in stride

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 02:  P.K. Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on March 2, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Getty
12 Comments

Just about any contending hockey nation will force some “snubs” heading into the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Snubs feel especially inevitable for Canada, though.

P.K. Subban has taken some confidence hits, relative to his abilities, when it comes to international play. Maybe that explains why he essentially shrugged off not making the team, as Sportsnet notes.

“I mean, everybody wants to make the team, right? And there’s a bunch of guys that I’m sure wanted to be on the team. But that’s the way it goes,” Subban said. “Listen, at the end of the day, we could take four or five teams to this thing. When I was speaking to [Team Canada GM] Doug Armstrong, my number one thing was I just want to see Canada win gold. So, I’ll be there cheering just like everybody else.”

Let’s face it, it’s probably pretty easy for Subban.

He’s super-rich, generally beloved and has a gold medal to his name. That probably makes it easier to shake off a snub.

That said, he also brings up a fun idea. If the Team North America idea runs out of steam, wouldn’t it be fun to watch Canada A vs. Canada B, or something of that nature?

Hey, if you’re bored, feel free to fantasy draft a second Canadian team for such a scenario. Or, you know, each a sandwich instead.

In other Subban news, he had fun with the Toronto Blue Jays: