The Dallas Stars have picked a very good time to match their longest winning streak of the season.
That run of success, however, still hasn't been enough to get them into a playoff spot.
Dallas hopes to move a step closer to that goal with its fifth straight victory Saturday night against the visiting San Jose Sharks.
Despite trading longtime captain Brenden Morrow, center Derek Roy and then-leading scorer Jaromir Jagr before the deadline, the Stars (20-17-3) have remained in the playoff hunt. They enter the weekend tied with Columbus and Phoenix for ninth in the Western Conference, two points behind eighth-place Detroit with one game in hand.
Their playoff chances appeared to take a hit with a recent three-game losing streak, but the Stars have rebounded with four consecutive wins.
Rookie Alex Chiasson continued his impressive start with two goals and Richard Bachman stopped 26 shots to lead Dallas to a 5-2 win in Nashville on Friday. Ray Whitney added a goal and an assist for the Stars, who have outscored opponents 18-8 during their first four-game run since Feb. 4-12.
"Leading up to the trade deadline, we certainly were the focus of a lot of attention," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "And obviously everyone knows what happened the last couple weeks. The guys have felt that people have written them off, and we haven't liked that very much. We just keep playing for each other in that locker room."
Chiasson has five goals in his first five NHL games.
"Playing with those two guys makes it a lot easier on me," Chiasson said of Whitney and Jamie Benn. "I'm just playing confident right now, that's for sure. I'm just going day by day and seeing where it goes."
Bachman was pressed into his first start since Feb. 26 with Kari Lehtonen nursing a groin injury sustained in Tuesday's win over Los Angeles. If Lehtonen is out again, Gulutzan could come back with Bachman or switch to Christopher Nilstorp, who earned his only career win with 31 saves in a 3-1 victory over the Sharks on Feb. 23.
"This time of year, whether it's back-to-back or three in three, you get yourself ready to play because it's life or death for us right now," Bachman said.
San Jose (21-12-7) is much more secure in its playoff position, sitting fifth in the conference, one point behind the Kings for home-ice in the opening round. The Sharks were ninth in the West on March 24 before going on an 8-1-1 run following the trades of veteran forwards Ryan Clowe and Michal Handzus and defenseman Douglas Murray.
A potential extra home game would seemingly be important to a Sharks team that is a league-best 14-1-5 in San Jose and 7-11-2 on the road.
They have a chance to notch back-to-back road wins for the first time since the opening week of the season after Thursday's 3-2 shootout victory over Detroit. Antti Niemi made 27 saves through overtime before stopping the final two attempts in the tiebreaker.
"Our road game has been lacking a little bit," said Patrick Marleau, who scored his team-leading 17th goal.
Niemi has been among the biggest keys to the 8-1-1 surge, posting a 1.99 goals-against average with two shutouts while playing each game. Niemi, though, is 0-1-1 with a 3.40 GAA in two starts this season against the Stars.
Dallas has won both meetings against San Jose this year after losing seven of the previous eight. Benn scored the lone shootout goal as the Stars snapped the Sharks' seven-game win streak with a 5-4 road victory Sunday.
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