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Possible playoff sneak peek pits Stars, Kraken

Mar 18, 2023; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson (21) celebrates his goal with teammates against the Calgary Flames during the overtime period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars and Seattle Kraken could very well meet in the NHL’s Western Conference playoffs, perhaps even in the opening round.

That makes Tuesday night’s matchup in Dallas, the third meeting between the teams in 11 days, a potential postseason preview.

The Stars (38-19-13, 89 points) are currently in first place in the Central Division, three points behind Pacific-leading Vegas for the top seed in the conference.

The Kraken (38-24-7, 83 points) are atop the wild-card race, two points ahead of Winnipeg.

“You see the standings and where we’re at,” Kraken forward Jordan Eberle said. “Obviously we’re fighting until the end.”

The Stars played at Seattle in back-to-back games on their just-completed, six-game trip. They won 4-3 March 11 on Miro Heiskanen’s overtime winner, then posted a 5-2 victory March 13 as six players had multi-point games and their power play went 3-for-4.

“It was an important four points,” Stars coach Peter DeBoer said after the two-game sweep. “You look at the standings and we’re in a fight for first in the division, first in the conference. They’re in a battle for playoff positioning. They’ve been playing great all year, so this was a real test for us coming in here for two games and I thought our group really responded.”

The Stars wrapped up their 4-2-0 trip with a 6-5 overtime victory Saturday at Calgary against a Flames team that eliminated Dallas in a seven-game playoff series last season.

Jason Robertson scored twice, including the winner with 13 seconds left in OT. The two goals gave him 41 for the season, making him the first player since the franchise moved from Minnesota to Dallas to have consecutive 40-goal seasons.

“A lot of guys on this team are having fantastic seasons,” Robertson said. “That kind of bleeds into my game and that success translates from the team to the individuals. We’re doing really well in the standings right now and we want to keep it that way. And it helps for a guy like me to achieve that milestone.”

Wyatt Johnston also tallied for Dallas, his 20th of the season. That moved Johnston past Seattle’s Matty Beniers for the NHL’s goal-scoring lead among rookies.

“At the start of the year I was kind of just happy to be playing in the NHL, just happy to be here,” Johnston said. “As the season’s transitioned, I’ve tried to improve my game, get better and be a contributor.”

The Kraken are 1-3-1 in their past five games after a 6-4 loss to visiting Edmonton on Saturday.

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer left early in the second period with what the team called a “non-COVID illness,” and his status for Tuesday’s game is uncertain. Seattle has called up Joey Daccord from its American Hockey League affiliate in Coachella Valley just in case.

In addition, forward John Hayden suffered a lower-body injury in a fight late in the same period and apparently won’t make the trip.

“It (stinks), seeing guys go down like that,” Kraken winger Oliver Bjorkstrand said. “We feel comfortable, obviously, when (Martin Jones) is in net. Just got to keep going and focus on the game.”

–Field Level Media