Stars prepare for playoffs with stop in Phoenix

( - Thanks to a recent victory over one of the top teams in the NHL, the Dallas Stars won't be fighting for their playoff lives on Sunday night.

Instead, the wild card winners can use this evening's matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes as a tune up before making their first postseason appearance in six years.

Dallas was in a battle with Phoenix for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, but coupled a recent slump by the Coyotes with Friday's 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues to officially clinch the spot.

Thanks to 22 saves by Kari Lehtonen in his fifth shutout of the season and 27th of his career, the Stars are in the postseason for the first time since 2008. Dallas will take on the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks in the opening round.

"We believe we can win. We know how tough it is. I've been through those first round series and they're tough," said Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff. "They're physical and there's a lot of emotion in the first round. We've hardened ourselves by getting in the playoffs via the route we've taken."

Tyler Seguin and Ryan Garbutt both scored while Trevor Daley supplied a goal and an assist. Jamie Benn contributed two assists for Dallas, which won two of three on its final homestand of the regular season.

In his first season with the Stars, Seguin leads the club with 37 goals, 47 assists and 84 points -- all career highs -- while Benn is second with 34 goals, 45 helpers and 79 points. Benn has four goals and four assists over a five-game point streak.

The Coyotes saw their playoff-damaging losing streak reach seven straight games (0-4-3) with last night's 3-2 setback to the San Jose Sharks. Mike Doan and Mike Ribeiro had the goals, giving Phoenix nine tallies over its seven- game skid.

"It's a frustrating time. You're in this business to win," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett. "When you're close and you're not winning, it's probably even more frustrating. That's the worst thing about these games coming down the stretch. We've given points away that would have certainly helped the cause."

Mark Visentin made 29 saves to lose his NHL debut. The 27th overall pick of the 2010 draft was recalled from the minors one day after No. 1 netminder Mike Smith suffered a lower-body injury on March 24. Thomas Greiss started eight games in a row in Smith's place before last night's contest.

The Coyotes are 0-2 versus the Stars this season and have lost five of the previous seven meetings overall. Dallas snapped a four-game series road losing streak with a 3-1 victory on Feb. 4.