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Mar 21, 2024 5:58 pm

Rolling out West, Stars try to dim Pens’ slim playoff hopes

Seguin Duchene

The Dallas Stars close out a five-game homestand Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they appear to be headed in a good direction.

The Stars (42-19-9, 93 points) are in a tight race for the Central Division and Western Conference title. They lost the first two games of their homestand — their only losses in eight games this month — before winning two straight.

In Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes, Dallas got back a significant piece when forward Tyler Seguin returned after missing 11 games because of an upper-body injury.

Seguin scored one of five straight Stars’ goals after they spotted the Coyotes a 1-0 lead.

“Great to be back,” Seguin said. “Had a smile all day. Couldn’t nap. It was just a lot of fun. It felt good.

“Personally, there’s a little rust in certain areas. I think I lost my first three draws, things like that. Definitely a game to build on.”

Seguin’s return restored a strong line with Matt Duchene and Mason Marchment. Seguin’s goal came off a two-on-one and a behind-the-back pass from Duchene.

“I thought we should have had four or five (goals) rather than just one,” Duchene said of that line. “Chemistry is something you can’t quantify. You can work on it always, but when it’s there, it’s there.

“(Seguin) is a hell of a player. You take him out of the lineup, take him off a line, there’s definitely a hole. It was really fun to play that way — kind of picked up where we left off. He had good jump for being out as long as he was.”

Dallas tightened up defensively with three goals allowed in the two-game winning streak after giving up 10 in back-to-back losses to Florida and New Jersey.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is going through an emotional rollercoaster trying to make the playoffs by beating odds that keep getting longer.

The Penguins (30-29-9, 69 points) still have a shot but will likely have to go on a tear to pass a handful of teams to grab a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, or, on an even longer shot, third place in the Metropolitan Division.

It seems with every game Pittsburgh is full of optimism or practically despondent, depending on the result.

For instance, their 6-3 win Sunday against Detroit – another team in the same postseason chase — had the Penguins within five points of a playoff spot and spirits were high.

However, their 5-2 loss Tuesday at New Jersey allowed the Devils to leapfrog them in the standings and sullied the playoff picture.

Now Pittsburgh faces a two-game weekend road trip against two of the top teams in the Western Conference, Dallas and the Colorado Avalanche.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was asked about his club’s desperation level with 14 games left as they try to avoid a second straight spring with no playoffs following a 16-year postseason run.

“Whatever the highest level (of desperation) is, that’s where we’re at,” Crosby said. “That’s the situation we’re in. There’s nothing else to do but play with some urgency and some desperation and try to get it a game at a time.”

–Field Level Media

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