Push for the Playoffs: Stars face busy stretch in hopes of securing wild card

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Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

Tuesday night begins a vital stretch of games for the Dallas Stars. They currently hold the first wild card spot in the Western Conference with 14 games to play. Seven of their final 14 will come in the next 12 days — and that’s before the four-game western Canada road trip to end the month.

The importance of these upcoming games considering their position will mean a reliance on depth. That’s head coach Jim Montgomery’s plan as he expects to use some rotation in order to get fresh legs in his lineup.

“Going back to the four in six it is really important that we keep people fresh,” Montgomery said via the Stars website. “We saw Saturday that I would say that everyone except [Andrew] Cogliano and [Alexander] Radulov looked tired. So it is important that we can move bodies in and out.”

Saturday’s loss to the Chicago Blackahwks ended a four-game winning streak as they now head on the road for games in Buffalo and Minnesota before returning for a five-game homestand. The games against the Wild and next week against the Colorado Avalanche will feature important points on the line. There’s been some division on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture as teams have finally started separating themselves a bit.

The Stars have been getting solid goaltending of late from both Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin. They’ll need even more from them both as Montgomery will be leaning on them over this busy period hoping freshness can result in the accumulation of points that will provide a cushion.

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Penguins
Islanders vs. Hurricanes
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Sharks vs. Wild
Jets vs. Stars
Flames vs. Golden Knights
Predators vs. Blues

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Stars at Sabres, 7 p.m. ET
Capitals at Penguins, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN; live stream)
Bruins at Blue Jackets, 7:30 p.m. ET
Red Wings at Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. ET
Coyotes at Blues, 8 p.m. ET
Sharks at Jets, 8 p.m. ET
Devils at Flames, 9 p.m. ET
Predators at Ducks, 10 p.m. ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Lightning – In
Bruins – 100 percent
Maple Leafs – 100 percent
Capitals – 99.7 percent
Islanders – 99.5 percent
Penguins – 96.9 percent
Hurricanes – 93.8 percent
Blue Jackets – 56.3 percent
Canadiens – 44.9 percent
Flyers – 7.6 percent
Panthers – 1.0 percent
Sabres – 0.3 percent
Rangers – 0 percent
Devils – Out
Red Wings – Out
Senators – Out

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Sports Club Stats)
Sharks – 100 percent
Flames – 100 percent
Jets – 100 percent
Predators – 99.8 percent
Blues – 99.3 percent
Golden Knights – 99.1 percent
Stars – 86.5 percent
Coyotes 38.9 percent
Wild – 37.4 percent
Avalanche – 29 percent
Oilers – 5.0 percent
Blackhawks – 4.8 percent
Canucks – 0.3 percent
Ducks – 0 percent
Kings – 0 percent

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Senators – 18.5 percent*
Red Wings – 13.5 percent
Kings – 11.5 percent
Devils – 9.5 percent
Ducks – 8.5 percent
Canucks – 7.5 percent
Rangers – 6.5 percent
Blackhawks – 6 percent
Oilers – 5 percent
Sabres – 3.5 percent
Avalanche – 3 percent
Panthers – 2.5 percent
Wild – 2 percent
Flyers – 1.5 percent
Canadiens – 1 percent
(*OTT’s 2019 first-round pick owned by COL)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Lightning – 111 points
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 98 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 98 points
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 89 points
Sidney Crosby, Penguins – 88 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 42 goals
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 41 goals
Cam Atkinson, Blue Jackets – 38 goals
John Tavares, Maple Leafs – 38 goals

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.