In a dogfight for the Western Conference’s two wild-card playoff spots, the Dallas Stars can ill afford more slip-ups like their last outing.
Therefore, the Stars (39-26-3, 81 points), who are on the outside of a playoff position, will look to make amends when they host the New York Islanders (32-27-9, 73 points) on Tuesday night.
The Stars have won seven of their last 10 games but saw their three-game winning streak snapped emphatically in a disappointing 4-1 loss to the expansion Seattle Kraken on Sunday to end a road swing.
“This one stings a little bit because you come in 3-0 (on four-game trip) and you fully expect to go home with eight points,” forward Joe Pavelski said. “Throughout a season you’re thinking that’s a pretty good trip, but with the situation we’re in, you can be a little greedy and selfish and you wanted that fourth one. So we’d like to have that last one.”
Dallas is one point behind both the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights — who hold the conference’s two wild-card spots. Vegas has played three more games than both Nashville and Dallas.
Unsettling to the Stars was how they lost to the Kraken, who could end up at the bottom of the league standings. Dallas was outplayed in the first two periods before mounting an unsuccessful comeback attempt.
“We haven’t given up that many breakaways all year, let alone one game,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “We didn’t have the jump in our legs, we were a step behind for two periods, and they just fed on our miscues when we had to open it up.”
The Islanders arrive riding a four-game winning streak that was extended by a 4-3 road win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
Despite being on an 11-3-1 run, New York must be close to perfect in its final 14 games if it wants to catch the Washington Capitals and make the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Having reached the semifinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs the last two seasons, and losing to the two-time champion Tampa Bay Lightning both times, hopes were high for the Islanders.
As disappointing as the season has been, the Islanders enjoyed a happy moment, with goaltender Cory Schneider winning in his first NHL start in more than two years when they beat the Devils.
“It’s funny — a little over two years ago was my last game in the league in this building, so I don’t know if it’s fate or coincidence, but I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” said Schneider, who spent seven seasons with the Devils.
Whether Schneider plays again remains to be seen. He was given the net because Semyon Varlamov had played three games in four nights, and No. 1 goalie Ilya Sorokin was injured. Sorokin is expected to return this week.
Not only do the Islanders need more solid goaltending to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, but they need more performances such as Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s hat trick in a four-point outing against the Devils.
“I think our line (which includes Josh Bailey and Kyle Palmieri) has been doing a really good job the past few games,” Pageau said. “You start worrying when you don’t have chances, and we’ve had chances.”
–Field Level Media