Blue Jackets-Stars Preview
The last time the Columbus Blue Jackets faced the Dallas Stars, a frightening incident made a hockey game and the playoff race seem very insignificant.
The teams will meet again for the first time in almost a month Wednesday night in Dallas, with the final score and postseason position foremost on the minds of both clubs.
This is the makeup game of the contest between Columbus and Dallas from March 10, when Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench in the first period because of an irregular heartbeat. Per NHL rules, the suspended game will start completely over - only with the Blue Jackets retaining the 1-0 lead they had about 7 minutes in when the medical emergency ended play.
Both teams are trying to clinch playoff berths and end postseason droughts.
The Blue Jackets (41-31-7) hold the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, sitting one point behind Detroit and four ahead of Washington as they try to reach the postseason for the second time in franchise history. Their other playoff appearance came in 2009.
Dallas, which last made the postseason in 2007-08, has a two-point lead over the Coyotes in the race for the West's second wild card and will close the season Sunday in Phoenix.
The Stars (39-29-11) owe a debt of gratitude to the Blue Jackets after they beat the visiting Coyotes 4-3 in overtime Tuesday to match a franchisee record with their 41st victory. Ryan Johansen scored his team-leading 32nd goal in the extra period after Phoenix netted the equalizer with 15 seconds left in regulation.
''It was huge for us,'' winger Blake Comeau said. ''Everyone knew how important these points are this time of year. We could let off the gas and gotten down on ourselves after that late goal. But the guys did a great job of rallying.''
Sergei Bobrovsky continued his strong play with 29 saves in his fifth consecutive start and is 3-1-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average in his past four. Bobrovsky stopped 31 shots in a 4-2 victory over the Stars on March 31 in the only other meeting between the teams this season, and is 5-0-1 with a 1.96 GAA lifetime against them.
This is the opener of season-ending three-game road trip for the Blue Jackets, who will play in four cities over a five-night span. No NHL team has finished a season with so many games packed into so little time since Ottawa in 1992-93.
''We go on this three-game road trip now feeling a little better about our game and ourselves,'' Johansen said.
Nathan Horton assisted on Columbus' first goal Tuesday before leaving in the second period with an apparent recurrence of a lower-body injury. Because he scored the only goal in the last meeting with Dallas, Horton could get credit for a score in a game in which he did not officially play if he does not dress Wednesday.
The Stars kicked off a three-game homestand Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout win over Nashville. Vernon Fiddler and Tyler Seguin scored goals in the tiebreaker to give Dallas its fourth straight win at home, where it is 7-0-1 in its last eight.
''It's huge. Obviously, you're scoreboard watching,'' Fiddler said. ''We saw Phoenix picked up a point so we wanted to do anything we could to pick up any kind of points. It's a big two points.''
Kari Lehtonen turned aside 27 shots through overtime and improved to 6-0-0 with a 1.90 GAA in his last seven home starts.
Seguin had a four-game point streak snapped Tuesday while Jamie Benn's goal gave him four in three contests.
Columbus is 3-0-1 in the past four meetings overall and has won two straight in Dallas.