BLUE JACKETS (22-17-7) at STARS (22-20-4)
TV: FS-O, FS-SW+
Last 10: Columbus 7-3-0; Dallas 6-3-1
Season series: This is the last of three meetings; the teams split the first two at Nationwide Arena. The Dallas Stars won the most recent, 5-4 in overtime Feb. 26.
Big story: When these teams met last, the Columbus Blue Jackets owned the worst record in the NHL. They have since turned it around -- wins in nine of their past 12 have helped -- and are jockeying with the Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings and Dallas for the final two Stanley Cup Playoff spots in the Western Conference. Dallas is in the hunt, but has lost four of five and would be eliminated from contention with another Thursday.
Blue Jackets: On April 13, Columbus embarked on a six-game road trip with its season on the line. The Blue Jackets were 5-11-2 away from home and needed points to climb the standings. The trip ends here, and so far the Blue Jackets have gotten those points, in nail-biting fashion: two overtime wins, a shootout victory, and Sunday’s late regulation win against the San Jose Sharks.
"It feels like a little bit of destiny with this team," said R.J. Umberger, who assisted on Ryan Johansen’s game-winner against the Sharks. “We're just a very confident team. We feel like we are underdogs every night. We're proving people wrong. This team believes a lot and it just feels like our destiny that we're to make the playoffs. We want to make it more than anything."
Stars: All but written off at the NHL Trade Deadline after dealing veterans Brenden Morrow, Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy, Dallas won five straight in early April to jump back into the thick of things.
The Stars have since faded, however. Tuesday, Dallas held a 2-1 lead against San Jose with six minutes to play, but it dissolved when the Stars allowed two goals in 30 seconds and went on to lose 3-2. The Sharks clinched a playoff berth and left the Stars in 10th place with 48 points.
Dallas has two games left at American Airlines Center and needs a full four points.
"Desperation. Do or die," center Jamie Benn said after the loss. "Just like tonight. We needed these points and didn't get them. There are still four out there that we can get."
Who’s hot: Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky likely will start his 12th straight. The 24-year-old made 32 saves in the win against San Jose, and is 16-5-3 with a 1.65 goals-against average since the February loss to Dallas.
Injury report: Columbus defensemen Adrian Aucoin (lower body) and Nikita Nikitin (lower body) are questionable. Forward Artem Anisimov (concussion) has been ruled out. Forward Matt Calvert (finger) is out indefinitely. … Stars rookie wing Alex Chiasson (shoulder), who has a team-high six goals since his NHL debut April 3, has missed the past five games with a shoulder injury and is questionable.
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