They may not have Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, or Brenden Morrow anymore, but that hasn’t stopped the Dallas Stars from making a late run at a playoff spot.
The Stars won their third straight on Tuesday, hammering the defending Stanley Cup champs, 5-1, at the American Airlines Center.
With the win, Dallas moved to within two points of eighth-place Detroit in the Western Conference standings, with both teams having nine games left on their schedules.
Over at Sports Club Stats, the Stars are being given a 22.1 percent shot of making the playoffs. A week ago, their odds were 3.0 percent.
Granted, while a two-point deficit in the standings doesn’t sound like much, the Stars have a very tough finish ahead of them. Of their nine remaining games, seven are against playoff teams.
There’s also the health of starting goalie Kari Lehtonen to be concerned about. The 29-year-old was forced to leave last night’s game with a “mild” lower-body injury and will be reassessed today.
Backup Richard Bachman played well in relief of Lehtonen, stopping all 22 Los Angeles shots he faced.
“It was fun playing again, that’s for sure,” said Bachman. “Confidence-wise, it’s huge for me. And more importantly, I hope I gave them some confidence if they need to have me in there, that I can help get the job done.”
Related: Top 8 in West likely to stay that way
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”
Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.
The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.
“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”
Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.
The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.
If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.