The Dallas Stars had a chance to make the playoffs until the Detroit Red Wings ended those dreams on Thursday. On Saturday, however, the Stars have an opportunity to ruin Detroit's postseason chances, as Dallas hosts the Red Wings in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Dallas entered Thursday's game against visiting Columbus needing a win and some help to stay afloat in the Western Conference playoff race. However, the Red Wings needed only a point in their home game against Nashville to eliminate the Stars from contention and Detroit slammed the Predators, 5-2, to send Dallas to a fifth straight year without the playoffs.
Still, the win did not clinch a playoff spot for the Red Wings, who are trying to stretch their epic postseason streak to 22 seasons. However, all Detroit needs is to gain a point tonight to ensure the streak stays alive.
The Red Wings are seeded seventh in the West with 54 points, one more than Minnesota and Columbus. All three teams are closing the regular season today, with the Wild visiting Colorado and the Blue Jackets at home against Nashville.
The Red Wings have won three straight and earned a point in seven of their last eight games, going 4-1-3 during that stretch. Detroit used a three-goal second period to cruise past the Predators on Thursday, as Pavel Datsyuk posted a goal and an assist during the key stanza at Joe Louis Arena.
Datsyuk added another assist in the third, while Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Patrick Eaves and Justin Abdelkader each scored once for the Red Wings.
"We need to win here down the stretch so it's all about playing the way we do," Franzen said. "We keep it simple. We get pucks to the net and we get traffic."
Jimmy Howard stopped 20 shots for Detroit, which hasn't missed the playoffs since 1990.
Thursday's victory capped a perfect three-game homestand for the Red Wings, who are 13-7-4 as the host this season compared to a 10-9-4 mark on the road.
Detroit has fared well recently against the Stars, winning five of the last six meetings between the clubs. The Red Wings also have taken the past three encounters in Big D.
Although Detroit put the final nail in the coffin, the Stars' playoff chances were done in by the team's 0-3-1 record over the last four games. The latest setback was Thursday's 3-1 loss to the visiting Blue Jackets, who kept their postseason chances alive with the two points.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 32 shots for the Stars, who were tied with the Blue Jackets at 1-1 after two periods when they found out the Red Wings had ended their postseason hopes.
"To be honest, we knew after the 2nd period," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said of his team being eliminated. "I think most of our players did, too. However, at the moment, the loss stings."
In addition to potentially spoiling Detroit's playoff chances, Dallas can also finish above .500 at home this season with a win tonight. The Stars are 11-10-2 at American Airlines Center.