Battling for Central lead, hot Stars open trip at Coyotes

League: NHL

Posted on: 23 Mar, 2024 at 11:08 PM

Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In a three-way battle for first place in the Central Division, the Dallas Stars begin a key four-game Western road trip Sunday night against the Arizona Coyotes in Tempe, Ariz.

Dallas (43-19-9, 95 points) enters Sunday tied for first with Colorado (45-20-5, 95 points) and two points ahead of Winnipeg (44-21-5, 93 points). Both the Avalanche and Jets have a game in hand, however, and a big advantage in the regulation-wins tiebreaker.

Three of the four games on the trip are against teams out of the playoff hunt, starting with the Coyotes (29-36-5, 63 points).

The Stars then visit San Jose, which has the fewest points and home wins in the league, on Tuesday before facing Pacific Division-leading Vancouver on Thursday.

The trip ends with a game at Seattle, which has lost seven in a row (0-5-2).

Meanwhile, Dallas is riding a three-game winning streak and is 8-2-0 in its past 10 games following a 4-2 home win over Pittsburgh on Friday.

"We all know we're close to the playoffs here but we're not overlooking these games ahead and we're trying to get first in the Central," defenseman Thomas Harley said.

Harley had an assist, five blocks and six hits in the win over the Penguins.

"They're huge points," Harley said. "We're so close with Colorado and Winnipeg so every point matters. We're going into Arizona (Sunday) looking to win."

It's the final of three regular-season matchups with the Coyotes, who are seventh in the Central Division. The Stars won each of the first two games played in Dallas, 4-3 on an overtime goal by Matt Duchene on Nov. 14, and 5-2 last Wednesday.

After the trip, the Stars play five of their final seven games at home, where they are 22-10-4 after bouncing back to defeat Los Angeles, Arizona and Pittsburgh during a five-game homestand that began with losses to Florida and New Jersey.

"We finished off strong, and we're going on the road now with a little thing going," said forward Jason Robertson, who assisted on two goals Friday.

"Our desperation levels and details are really heightened right now, especially at this time of year. It's a race to the finish line, so it's good we finished off the homestand strong."

It's the second game of a seven-game homestand for Arizona, which comes in off a 2-1 overtime victory over Seattle on Friday. Clayton Keller forced overtime with a rebound goal with 1:08 left in regulation before Dylan Guenther scored on a breakaway for his first NHL overtime goal.

"The first two periods I thought we had some pretty good looks," Guenther said. "Tight game, nice to battle back and win a game like that, for sure."

Although the Coyotes are out of the playoff race, Guenther said the team isn't throwing in the towel for its final 12 games.

"You're always playing for something, no matter who you are," Guenther said. "You're playing for next year. People would kill to play the last (12) games in the NHL, so don't take it for granted.

"I think everybody in here is playing for something no matter who they are. I think that's important. We can take momentum into next year for sure."

--Field Level Media