Wed, 16 Jun 2021

Hanging by a thread, Stars set for two vs. Blackhawks

Field Level Media
09 May 2021, 04:19 GMT+10

The Dallas Stars are taking their playoff pursuit to Chicago.

The Stars staved off playoff elimination in the Central Division on Friday night with a strong 5-2 win over Tampa Bay to pull within two points of the fourth-place Nashville Predators.

The Stars (22-18-14, 58 points) will close their regular season with a pair of contests in Chicago against the Blackhawks (23-25-6, 52 points) beginning Sunday night. The teams will end the campaign Monday.

Owning a 2-2-2 mark against its former Western Conference rival, Dallas will know when it takes the ice for Sunday's morning skate whether or not it is still alive in the hunt for the division's final spot in the postseason.

Dallas coach Rick Bowness' group has not played its best hockey down the stretch but delivered Friday when it won for the first time in its past six games (1-3-2) starting with a 5-1 home loss against Carolina on April 27.

"If we get some help from Carolina, we feel good about our game going into Sunday," said Bowness.

With the Lightning's loss, Carolina clinched the division crown. Nashville hosts the Hurricanes Saturday night, with the Predators winless (0-5-1) in the season series.

Criticized by Bowness after taking a bad penalty Monday in overtime in a 5-4 loss to Florida, veteran Joe Pavelski tallied twice in Tampa -- once on a breakaway after leaving the penalty box and another from the doorstep.

A seventh-round draft pick in 2003, the 36-year-old Wisconsin native notched his third four-point match of the season and produced a plus-5 performance against the Lightning.

"Obviously, we had to be desperate tonight," said Pavelski, who took a puck to the left ear in the first period and needed nine stitches of repair. "We did a lot of good things."

In a season that started with turmoil with the eventual season-long absence of captain Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks will end 2021 in sixth place, but the club is coming off the momentum of Thursday's 2-1 overtime win over the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C.

Despite the absence of its captain, goaltending that ranks in the lower half of the league, a host of injuries and a ton of youth, Chicago can find some solace in the reemergence of right winger Alex DeBrincat.

After two outstanding seasons of 28 and 41 goals to start his NHL career, the 5-foot-7 DeBrincat slipped to 18 goals and 27 assists last season, ending the pandemic-interrupted campaign with a minus-10 showing.

However, DeBrincat, 23, has produced 23 assists and a team-best 29 markers in 50 games this season, including a wrister from the slot to beat the Hurricanes in overtime.

"He's had a great year," said Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton, whose squad is 4-2-0 against Dallas. "He's already got a lot of experience and had a lot of success. His game continues to evolve. That's a big positive for us when we look at how we're going to get back to being a top team."

Forward Brett Connolly and defenseman Duncan Keith are out with concussions and likely won't play against Dallas.

Chicago announced this week that budding center Kirby Dach will miss the remainder of the season after having post-operative discomfort following Dec. 28's surgery on his fractured right wrist.

--Field Level Media

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