The only thing the Dallas Stars need to worry about during their regular-season finale Sunday night is building momentum for a long-awaited trip to the postseason.
With their first playoff berth in six years wrapped up, the visiting Stars can send the Coyotes on the franchise’s longest losing streak while in Phoenix and sweep the season series for the first time since both clubs were located in different cities.
Defenseman Trevor Daley had a goal with an assist and Kari Lehtonen made 22 saves as Dallas (40-30-11) clinched the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with a 3-0 home victory over St. Louis on Friday. By securing their first trip to the postseason since losing to Detroit in the 2008 West finals, the Stars eliminated ninth-place Phoenix (36-30-15) from contention and rendered this matchup meaningless in terms of playoff implications.
"It’s a great feeling," Daley, the only player still around from the 2008 team, told the Stars’ official website. "We’ve been battling hard. We’ve been battling hard for a long time."
Dallas has won eight of 12 since an 0-3-1 slide and persevered after watching forward Rich Peverley collapse on the bench because of a heart problem last month. Peverley celebrated Friday with the Stars, who aren’t satisfied with simply reaching the postseason.
"Now it is just starting," said Lehtonen, who has recorded two of his five shutouts in his last six starts. "We feel good about this and we know we can celebrate and have a good time. But then it’s back to business and it’s exciting."
Coach Lindy Ruff is expected to rest some of his top players Sunday, possibly either star forwards Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn.
"We’ve had several guys taking days off for maintenance, we’ll evaluate who is the worst of all those guys and give them some time off," Ruff said. "That goes for the same with the back end. A couple of guys that haven’t played are going to play."
Seguin, who added to his career-high goal total with his 37th Friday, has five in the last seven games.
Benn – with career highs of 34 goals and 45 assists – has four of each in the last five contests.
Neither has a goal but each recorded an assist while Dallas has outscored the Coyotes 5-2 in winning the previous two meetings this season.
The Stars last swept the season series in 1991-92, when they were based in Minnesota and the Coyotes were then the Winnipeg Jets.
A loser in nine of 11, Phoenix has managed nine goals during its 0-4-3 slide.
"The offense really dried up these last few weeks, which is really concerning," coach Dave Tippett said. "You have to earn the right to be the playoff team. Dallas got the job done and we just didn’t."
After falling 3-2 at home to San Jose on Saturday, the Coyotes will try to avoid losing eight straight for the first time since a 10-game skid Feb. 6-25, 1994, while in Winnipeg.
"We want to beat everybody and just end this stupid streak," said forward Shane Doan, who has two of his 22 goals in three games.
Doan has one goal in his last 10 against the Stars.