Feb 26, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Derek Dorsett (15) looks for an open teammate during the game against the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars vs. Columbus Blue Jackets - Victory for Dallas a Must, Playoffs at Stake

The Dallas Stars return to American Airlines Center tonight to usher in the end of the regular season on home ice.

Despite Tuesday’s loss to San Jose, and Detroit’s victory over Los Angeles last night, the Stars aren’t necessarily out of the running for the playoffs just yet. A victory over Columbus tonight is a must for the Stars, and even then, the cards will have to continue to fall in Dallas’ favor for the rest of the week. Detroit would have to lose to Nashville tonight, as would the Blue Jackets on Saturday, and Dallas would have to take two points in regulation in both games. Likely? Not at all. But, stranger things have happened.

The teams have split the winnings thus far this season with Columbus taking the first of three games with a 2-1 victory back in January. The Stars took February’s meeting with a 5-4 final score. Tonight’s game presents the Stars with home-ice advantage against the Blue Jackets for the first time this season. American Airlines Center hasn’t necessarily been a bastion of opportunity for the Stars through most of the season, but Dallas has gone 3-1 in the four games played at American Airlines Center this month.

While victory for the Stars could mean winding up in eighth place, victory for the Blue Jackets means taking that final playoff spot back from the Red Wings.

The teams aren’t that different statistically, leading to what is sure to already be an intense and highly energetic matchup. Both teams have 22 wins on the board for the season, but the Blue Jackets have fared much more favorably in overtime situations than the Stars, giving Columbus the three points it holds over Dallas. The Blue Jackets have struggled on the power play, sitting at 12.8 percent, 4.2 percent behind the Stars, but outperform Dallas on the penalty kill 83 to 81.3 percent respectively. Columbus averages 26.1 shots per game, while Dallas averages 26.3, and the Blue Jackets average 30.1 shots allowed per game while the Stars allow 30.8. No matter which way you cut it, tonight’s battle is going to be an entertaining game.

And with playoffs on the line, there are sure to be at least a few gloves dropped.

Tonight’s puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the match will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest Plus.

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