Apr 7, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) watches a shot from Dallas Stars left winger Antonie Roussel (60) during the first period at HP Pavilion . Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars vs. San Jose Sharks - A Must Win for the Playoff Hopeful Stars

Tonight the Dallas Stars face the San Jose Sharks in what is hands down the most important game of the Stars’ short season to date. With only three games remaining in the regular season, two of which are against the eighth place Columbus Blue Jackets and the ninth place Detroit Red Wings, tonight presents the last opportunity for the Stars to get a leg up in the push to the playoffs.

Closing out the season’s final road series in San Jose may be exactly what the Stars need. Despite struggling in California and St. Louis, Dallas will look to take the fourth of four possible victories over San Jose, sweeping the Pacific division rival Sharks. The victories haven’t come easy though, and the Stars have beaten San Jose by only a point twice in the season’s meetings.

The Sharks won’t give in easy, despite holding fifth place in the Western Conference and sitting comfortably in the playoffs. Victory tonight would clinch the spot and give San Jose a little wiggle room in front of the sixth place St. Louis Blues, and would put the team a step closer to earning home ice advantage in the quarterfinals.

The Stars are coming off an overtime loss in Los Angeles Sunday, and the outcome of tonight’s game will show if this young, up-and-coming team can truly shrug off the past and push for the future.

The Sharks are also coming off an overtime loss at the Shark Tank, but have lost only one other game in regulation while playing at home this season.

Specific Stars players to keep an eye on tonight are veteran Ray Whitney, who has been huge for Dallas this month, scoring four goals and posting seven assists in April, and rookie Antoine Roussel, who was responsible for a goal in each of the Stars’ past two games.

Goaltending is sure to impress tonight, with Dallas’ most valuable player, Kari Lehtonen, and San Jose’s Antti Niemi taking up residence between the pipes. Lehtonen has posted a .916 save percentage thus far this season, and Niemi has recorded a .925 percentage.

Playing in California means it’ll be yet another late puck drop for Stars fans. The game starts tonight at 9 p.m. at the Shark Tank and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest.

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Tags: Antoine Roussel Dallas Stars Hockey Kari Lehtonen NHL Playoff Push Ray Whitney

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