NHL

Stars host Predators; Coyotes try to move into playoff spot

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The Sports Network
4/8/2014 12:04:51 PM
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The battle for wild card spots in the Western Conference continues tonight with the Dallas Stars hosting the Nashville Predators and the Phoenix Coyotes visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Currently, the Stars hold down the second and final wild card spot with 87 points while the Coyotes are one point back and the Predators are six points behind the Stars. All three teams have four games remaining.

The Stars will try to avoid a third loss in four games when they play host to the Predators.

The Stars are coming off a 3-2-0 road trip, but saw a victory slip away on Sunday in what ended up being a 3-2 setback to the Florida Panthers. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin scored in the game's first 21 minutes, but the Panthers netted three unanswered goals to deal the Stars a loss.

Kari Lehtonen came up with 21 saves in defeat.

"Tough points to lose. It wasn't a good game for us," said Seguin, who has scored a goal in four straight and has 36 on the season.

Both forward Ray Whitney and defenseman Aaron Rome missed the loss with lower- body injuries and are questionable for tonight.

Dallas has 87 points on the season, one more than the Phoenix Coyotes with four games to play for both teams. The Coyotes visit the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, while the Stars begin a three-game homestand.

The Stars and Coyotes end the regular season against each other with a meeting in Phoenix on Sunday.

The Predators, meanwhile, are just about eliminated from the playoff race despite picking up a pair of victories over playoff-bound teams this weekend. Nashville is 6-1-1 in its last eight games, but is six points back of Dallas with four games to go.

The Preds bested the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, then followed up the following day with a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks. Carter Hutton made 35 saves in his first career shutout and was backed by three second-period goals.

Patric Hornqvist scored twice and assisted on Roman Josi's goal.

"Every night is a big night for us," said Hornqvist. "As long as we have a chance, obviously our goal to make the playoffs is tough but as long as we have a chance it is something to work hard for."

The Predators and Stars have split four meetings this season, with each club winning twice at home, but Nashville still has won six of the last nine encounters overall.

Despite Hutton's shutout, Pekka Rinne could still draw the start tonight for the Predators and he is 7-5-0 with a 2.84 goals against average lifetime versus the Stars.

Lehtonen is 7-7-0 with a 2.36 GAA versus the Predators, while backup Tim Thomas is 4-0-0 with a 2.40 GAA lifetime against them. Lehtonen got both starts over the weekend and the Stars also are in action on Wednesday as they host the Blue Jackets.

Phoenix Coyotes at Columbus Blue Jackets

The Coyotes fell to 0-2-2 over their last four outings with Friday's 3-2 shootout loss against visiting Edmonton. Phoenix carried a 2-1 lead into the closing minutes of regulation before allowing Sam Gagner to tie it up with 40.4 seconds left in the third.

Phoenix begins a two-game road trip tonight and also will visit Nashville on Thursday before capping the regular season this weekend on a two-game homestand. The Coyotes welcome San Jose on Saturday before hosting Dallas the following night in a potentially crucial game for the West's second wild card spot.

The Coyotes are 21-13-5 at home this season and 15-15-9 as the guest.

Columbus notched a 2-0 win at Phoenix on Jan. 2, giving the Blue Jackets two straight wins in this series following a three-game slide versus the Coyotes. Phoenix has lost four in a row in Columbus, where it hasn't won since a 4-3 regulation victory on Jan. 11, 2011.

Jamie Benn (Photo: Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
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