The quest for the Dallas Stars is monumental, but as they head into Saturday's home clash with the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets, the Stars can see that reaching their goal is attainable.
With 14 games remaining in the season, the Stars sit five points back of the Nashville Predators for the fourth spot in the Central Division, and they hold three games in hand.
Dallas is also five points ahead of the Blue Jackets, whom they defeated 4-1 on Thursday.
Dallas, which reached the Stanley Cup Final last season in a surprising run before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning, is on a 3-0-2 roll because the team is starting to fire on all cylinders.
The Stars' top line Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson has been playing well, but the trio of Jamie Benn, Jason Dickinson and Denis Gurianov is breaking out over the past couple of weeks. Gurianov, a 20-goal rookie last season, scored twice and added an assist in the comeback victory over the Blue Jackets, snapping a 10-game goal drought.
"We won the game and we got two points. It's important points for us," Gurianov said. "We are fighting for the playoffs. It feels good to score two goals and help my team to win."
Heading into their final clash with Columbus this season, Dallas has won four of the seven meetings (4-2-1) and is looking forward to a favorable schedule ahead, with the next four clashes against the last-place Detroit Red Wings.
"With this group, I think, if we get one goal we are going to get more," Benn said after Thursday's win. "Denis got us going and we just kept rolling from there."
The Blue Jackets have lost four straight games and are in a 2-9-2 swoon that's all but officially quashed their hopes for a trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It would be an understatement to say the disappointment is mounting for a Columbus team with 11 games remaining on the schedule.
"We made some plays (where) we hurt ourselves," coach John Tortorella said of his team's latest loss. "For the life of me, we just don't understand situational play. It's something we speak on constantly, and we just don't understand situational play, and we're just not able to sustain enough offense."
Columbus has scored first in 27 of 45 games but has a disappointing 12-8-7 record in those contests. It happened yet again Thursday in Dallas. Jack Roslovic gave the Blue Jackets an early lead -- giving him three goals and seven points in his last five games -- but the visitors managed only 11 shots on goal in the final two periods.
"That's just the way it is right now," said defenseman Michael Del Zotto, whose next game will be the 700th regular-season clash of his career. "We're having a tough time scoring goals, so you have to pay that much more attention to the details and checking."
Instead of extending a lead, the Blue Jackets saw their lead disappear with a pair of Dallas goals 79 seconds apart late in the second period and never threatened to take it back.
"They score and then the next shift, we turn one over instead of just getting it in, and it's another goal. That's the frustrating part," Tortorella said. "It's been going on for quite a while now with a number of people, and I'm not sure if it's stubbornness, I'm not sure if it's a lack of understanding, but we're going to continue to work at it."
--Field Level Media