STARS (27-23-2) at BLUE JACKETS (15-32-6)
TV: FS-Southwest, FS-Ohio (HD)
LAST 10: Dallas 3-6-1; Columbus 3-6-1
Season Series: It's the fourth and final meeting between the two Western Conference opponents. Dallas won 4-2 and 3-2 in a three-day span in mid-October, while Columbus won 4-1 in Dallas on Dec. 29.
Big Story: The Stars start a back-to-back stretch with their second visit of the season to Columbus for a game they have to have as they scramble for a playoff berth. But they may be catching the Jackets at the wrong time. Though Columbus is still buried in last place, the Blue Jackets have won their last two games.
Stars: The Stars are still very much in the thick of things in a competitive Western Conference and come to Nationwide Arena just two points out of a playoff spot. But to get into the top eight, they've got to string together some wins -- and that means they can't afford performances like the one they had Tuesday's 4-1 home loss to Phoenix, one that undid the benefits of Saturday's 2-1 victory against Minnesota.
"We've gotten by with a really good goaltender the last three or four games, and it's just not good enough," defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "We can talk about it and try to figure it out, but as a whole we've been letting each other down these last three or four games, especially with how important this stretch of games is, and what it means."
Blue Jackets: The Jackets have struggled for much of this season and have the inside track for the top spot in the draft lottery. But that doesn't mean they've stopped competing -- they've won their last two games, beating the Ducks in Anaheim last Friday before downing Minnesota 3-1 at home on Tuesday.
After giving up at least four goals in three straight games, the Jackets' defense has buckled down and allowed just six goals in their past three games.
Who's Hot: Stars' goalie Kari Lehtonen has wins in three of his past five starts and has given up a combined three goals in those victories. … Jackets' captain Rick Nash has points in consecutive games and has thrown eight shots on net in the two games.
Stat Pack: Columbus is last in the NHL in penalty-killing at 75.7 percent and has allowed nine goals in the last 28 shorthanded situations. … Lehtonen is 4-3-1 with a 1.75 GAA against Columbus.
Puck Drop: Jackets' Vinny Prospal after signing a one-year contract extension with Columbus on Wednesday:
"It's a great opportunity," he said. "And even after my playing days are over, this gives me a chance to remain with the game and do what I've been doing most of my life. This is also a great feeling that I have a job for next year."