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Playoff bubble watch — Stars edition

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Four wins in their last five — including an unexpected triumph Saturday in St. Louis — have lifted the Dallas Stars’ playoff chances to 59.7 percent, according to Sports Club Stats.

For a team with a history of late-season collapses, it’s been a reassuring stretch.

“This was a huge test for us,” goalie Kari Lehtonen said after the Blues game. “One of the best teams in the league and we played last night and traveled here late, and showed up, and it was just a huge win.”

But with eight games remaining and the Phoenix Coyotes enjoying a good stretch of their own, the work is far from done. Tonight, the Stars are in Washington to play a Capitals side that’s in a similar position of desperation, except in the East.

source:  “We have to answer the question of whether we are good enough,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said of the challenge that awaits his club, per the Morning News.

It’s estimated the Stars will need to gain nine out of a possible 16 points (so a 4-3-1 record, or 3-2-3) in order to give themselves a better-than-50/50 shot of qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2008. It’s quite possible it could all come down to their final game of the season, on Apr. 13 in Phoenix.

The way the standings look today, only one of the Stars or Coyotes are likely to make the playoffs, with only one earning, not only the chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, but also some much-needed buzz in their respective, crowded sports markets.

A decade ago, the Stars were among the NHL’s leaders in attendance. These days, they’re right down at the bottom. Getting back into the playoffs won’t completely rekindle fan interest overnight, but it’s a step that badly needs to be taken. In a big American sports market like Dallas, the hockey team needs to be successful on the ice in order to be successful off it, which in turns helps it be even more successful on it.

“We feel we have our fate in our own hands,” said forward Colton Sceviour. “We have games in hand, but those games mean nothing unless you win them. We feel confident if we play well we can make a push here down the stretch, and this is a start and we can build off it.”

Video: Borowiecki slams Toffoli from behind into the boards

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Tyler Toffoli reportedly went through the concussion protocol for a portion of Saturday’s game against the Senators, after Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowiecki slammed the L.A. Kings forward from behind into the boards.

The incident occurred less than three minutes into the game.

Borowiecki was given a major penalty for boarding. He received another major, this time for fighting, later in the period after him and Matt Greene dropped the gloves. Now the question becomes: Will Borowiecki face supplemental discipline?

Toffoli missed the remainder of the first period, but returned for the second.

The Kings went on to win by a final score of 4-1.

Blackhawks ‘have to do what’s right’ for injured Toews, who will miss ninth straight game

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 28:  Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 28, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks will not have Jonathan Toews in their lineup Sunday, marking the ninth consecutive game their captain has missed because of injury.

There is the possibility of good news, however, for Chicago: Brent Seabrook, considered day-to-day at this point after an awkward fall Tuesday, could return to game action versus the Dallas Stars tomorrow.

The Blackhawks currently have a two-point lead on St. Louis in the Central Division but only four wins in their last 10 games.

Given their recent run of injuries and the results in the win-loss columns, you could understand why the Blackhawks would want Toews back, healthy, as soon as possible, with a three-game road trip coming up next week.

That trip ends Saturday in St. Louis.

But the organization also doesn’t want to just rush the 28-year-old Toews into game action until he’s ready.

From CSN Chicago:

As for Toews, Quenneville had hoped the captain would be skating by this weekend. He said following Saturday’s practice that Toews could skate on Sunday. Whether or not Toews accompanies the Blackhawks on their upcoming trip to New York depends on what happens on Sunday.

“If he skates tomorrow, we’ll have a better sense of that,” Quenneville said. “We have to do what’s right, long-term, and make sure he’s 100 percent and ready to go.”

In 21 games this season, Toews has four goals and 12 points, while playing on both the power play and penalty kill.

Related: Patrick Kane: Others have to ‘step up’ with Toews out of Blackhawks lineup

Schenn’s hat trick powers Flyers to eighth straight win

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 29:  Claude Giroux #28 of the Philadelphia Flyers is congratulated by teammates Jakub Voracek #93 and Brayden Schenn #10 after Giroux scored in the first period against the Boston Bruins on November 29, 2016 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Dallas Stars were less than four minutes away from not only winning consecutive games for just the second time this season, but also snapping the Philadelphia Flyers’ winning streak on Saturday afternoon.

Then they started taking penalties, allowing Brayden Schenn and the Flyers’ power play to take over.

Schenn scored three power play goals, including two in the final four minutes to tie the game and then ultimately win it, to help lead the Flyers to a 4-2 win and extend their current winning streak to eight games.

Schenn had an eventful day on Saturday. Along with the hat trick, he also ended up in a fight with Stephen Johns in the first period.

The Flyers are now 17-10-3 on the season and have rapidly climbed the Eastern Conference standings over the past two weeks during this winning streak.

The Stars penalty kill has been a huge problem this season and it surfaced again on Saturday afternoon as they were unable to stay out of the penalty box late in the game. Jamie Oleksiak‘s cross-checking penalty on Jakub Voracek resulted in Schenn’s goal to tie the game. Less than a minute after that goal Tyler Seguin was sent off for high-sticking leading to Schenn’s third goal of the game just 40 seconds into the man advantage.

After Saturday the Stars’ penalty kill is now down to just 76 percent on the season and is near the bottom of the NHL.

That is just one of the many reasons the Stars are off to a disappointing 11-12-6 start through their first 29 games. Even worse, it was another missed opportunity to build on a win after a big 5-2 win in Nashville on Thursday.

The Stars have managed to win consecutive games just one time this season and have yet to win more than two games in a row.

They are now 1-7-3 in games following a win this season.

 

Goalie Nods: Penguins go back to Matt Murray against Lightning

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 30: Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins tends goal against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on November 30, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 5-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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After sitting for three consecutive games earlier in the week, Matt Murray was back in the lineup on Thursday night for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Florida Panthers. After stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced in a 5-1 win (and nearly scoring an empty net goal), he gets the call again on Saturday night when the Penguins face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals.

At this point the Penguins’ goalie rotation seems to simply be “keep playing until you lose or get pulled.”

Marc-Andre Fleury, after winning back-to-back starts against Dallas and Detroit, was lifted midway through the second period against Ottawa on Monday night paving the way for Murray to return to the crease.

Since taking over for Fleury midway through Monday’s game Murray has stopped 45 of the 47 shots he has faced and has a .934 save percentage on the season. Including playoffs, Murray has a .928 save percentage in 45 appearances at the NHL level since making his debut during the 2015-16 season. That is one of the best marks in the NHL during that stretch.

The Lightning, who have lost seven of their past nine games, are going with Andrei Vasilevskiy after Ben Bishop was pulled for giving up four goals on 20 shots in a 5-1 loss to Vancouver on Thursday.

With a .929 save percentage in 10 starts this season Vasilevskiy has been the Lightning’s best goalie so far. He replaced Bishop on Thursday night after he surrendered four goals on only 20 shots in a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

Elsewhere…

Steve Mason and Kari Lehtonen went for the Flyers and Stars respectively in their afternoon game, while Peter Budaj went against Mike Condon in the Kings-Senators game.

— With Ryan Miller sidelined due to a suspected lower body injury, Jacob Markstrom gets the call for Vancouver against his former team, the Florida Panthers. On the other end of the ice Roberto Luongo was also getting the start against his former team for the Panthers.

— The Islanders are trying to dig themselves out of an early deficit in the standings with a point in six straight games (5-0-1). They look to continue that strong play on Saturday against a Columbus team that has been the biggest surprise in the NHL this season. The Islanders go with Jaroslav Halak. The Blue Jackets, who have won five straight including a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, have not yet announced their starter. Sergei Bobrovsky will start again after getting the win on Friday.

Carey Price will be back in net for the Canadiens after he avoided discipline for punching Kyle Palmieri the other night with his blocker. He will go against Calvin Pickard in the Colorado net.

Frederik Andersen vs. Tuukka Rask is the goalie matchup in Boston when the Bruins host the Maple Leafs.

Mike Smith looks to snap a personal five-game winless streak when he gets the nod for the Arizona Coyotes against Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators.

— The Flames are going with Chad Johnson in net again when they host the Winnipeg Jets, and for good reason. Johnson has taken the No. 1 job in Calgary and now has a 10-2-0 record to go with a .947 save percentage in 12 starts since Nov. 15. No official word from the Jets on their starting goalie.

— The Sharks and Hurricanes have yet to announce their starters for the late game.