Seguin loving the drive for the playoffs

Being named the NHL's first star of the week is nice and all, but the only thing on Tyler Seguin's mind after Monday morning's skate was the next 48 hours and a pair of playoff-like games versus Columbus and St. Louis.

"You got it," the red-hot Stars center told ESPN.com over the phone from Dallas.

Winners of seven of their past 10 games, the Stars begin the week with a three-point cushion over Phoenix for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Stars host the Blue Jackets on Monday night before turning around to take on the first-place Blues in St. Louis on Tuesday night.

Every night has a playoff feel these days.

"Pretty much," said the former Boston Bruins forward. "Usually, the last few years I'm used to trying to play for first place or third place in the conference at this time of year. But this playoff push has really made our team go to the next level. We've got a group of guys that's really bought in together. This is the most fun I've had in hockey in a while."

Seguin is only 22 but on a Stars team that has missed the playoffs for five straight seasons, so that also makes him a playoff veteran, given his Cup ring from 2011 in Boston plus a return trip to the Cup finals last spring.

He knows what it takes at this time of year and it's something he's tapping into right now.

"It's more responsibility, for sure," Seguin said. "I don't know if you want to call it added pressure but I think my game has grown a lot this year. I'm in a different role and I'm looked up to a little differently just because I do have that experience, even for a young age. I'm just trying to make the most of this opportunity and show what I can do with my experience."

These days, Seguin can do no wrong. He's fifth in the NHL in scoring with 66 points (29-37), and his play alongside winger Jamie Benn all season long has been a thing of beauty to behold.

Don't you love it when a plan comes together? GM Jim Nill trades for Seguin last summer, thinking a change of scenery would elevate Seguin to that next level, that he could become a franchise player in Dallas. Head coach Lindy Ruff decides to put Benn back on the wing and move Seguin to his natural center position.

It's all worked so well between the two star forwards, each player responding brilliantly to the changes.

"I think that chemistry is just going to continue to grow," Seguin said of Benn. "Since Day 1, we became good friends off the ice. We definitely are two competitive guys and push each other a little bit. He hasn't experienced playoff games but going to the Olympics and winning that gold medal was huge for him and he saw how he could handle that kind of pressure on that stage. He's gained confidence from that and he's been great since he's been back."

It's not all positive, though. The Stars have lost starting netminder Kari Lehtonen -- who has been tremendous this season -- to a concussion after Minnesota Wild player Erik Haula collided with him Saturday night.

"Kari has definitely been the backbone of our team. I know he has been for a few years here in Dallas," Seguin said. "He's a quiet guy but definitely a true leader. It's terrible to see him go down. I still haven't seen the replay. Hopefully, he comes back sooner rather than later."

All of which makes Nill's decision to pick up Tim Thomas before the trade deadline even that much more inspired. Who knows how long Lehtonen will be out, but at least Seguin knows a lot about the veteran netminder stepping in for the next little while.

"Timmy has maybe the weirdest goaltending style in the league, but I've had a front-row seat and seen what he can do in a big-time game with everything on the line," Seguin said of his former Bruins teammate. "He's a true competitor, loves the game, and he works really hard. I was really happy with his acquisition. Good on Jim to get a goalie like Tim."

Can the Stars pull it out? Can they finally make the postseason after a half decade on the sidelines?

Few people before the season had them making it this season in the tough Western Conference. And truth be told, the Stars themselves weren't sure what to expect.

"I don't know if we even knew about our expectations this year, there was just so much new with the team," Seguin said. "You look at new management, new coaches, new players, new jerseys, so many new things, it was hard to know where we'd be this year. But I think we've earned the right to be where we are in that playoff hunt, we're fighting to stay in that last spot and move up if we can. We're having a lot of fun with it right now."