DALLAS– A week ago Friday, all was well with the Dallas Stars. The club was fresh off a come-from-behind win at Vancouver where they trailed 3-1 midway through the second period before storming back for three unanswered to leave Rogers Center with a huge 4-3 win, their second in a three-game trip through Western Canada.
Glen Gulutzan’s club headed back to the Lone Star State with visions of building some momentum after that huge road win in British Columbia and with a three-game homestand, the club’s longest so far this season, beginning last Sunday against Calgary, optimism was prevalent in the Stars room about their chance to make “hay at home” as Gulutzan put it before facing the Flames.
However, the Stars blew a 3-1 lead of their own against Calgary on Sunday as Bob Hartley’s team showed incredible grit to light the lamp three times without nary an answer from the home club and Calgary left town with a huge two points thanks to a 4-3 win.
Gulutzan gave his players Monday off but put them through the paces on Tuesday and Wednesday, focusing a great deal on cleaning up many of the small details that just weren’t there in the loss to the Flames and ensuring those deficiencies didn’t resurface on Thursday night against Vancouver.
Those same issues didn’t resurface but the Dallas power play continued to misfire as that unit is now 0-for-12 over its last three games and once again, the Stars were staring at the short end of a 4-3 setback on home ice.
On Saturday night, that run of games at home comes to an end at American Airlines Center with the season’s first visit from a familiar foe, Pacific Division rival San Jose. The Sharks will be on the second night of a back-to-back, having lost 2-1 at Chicago on Friday night.
And not only will Todd McLellan’s team be finishing up a back-to-back, but Saturday’s contest will mark the end of a stretch of six straight on the road for San Jose, a stretch the Sharks are 1-3-1 on thus far. San Jose has won only once in February and that came earlier this week at St. Louis, a victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak.
But no matter whether the Sharks are struggling or not, two Dallas mainstays know just how important it is to salvage at least one game from this current homestand and head out on the road again with some momentum.
“It’s a big game for us,” Dallas wing Loui Eriksson said. “We want to bounce back and get on the winning track again. We need points and we are going to try all we can to get the two.”
Stars captain Brenden Morrow concurs. “We did some good work to start the season. We got some breaks on the road and won against some good teams, but we’ve got to take advantage of the home ice or it’s all for naught. We have some games here at home against some good competition and we can get some real good confidence playing here at home,” Morrow said.
The dominant storyline in tonight’s game could very well be two power plays that are struggling to say the least. San Jose is 0 for their last 18 with the man advantage and just 2-for-39 in the month of February, a nine-game span while Dallas is 0 for their last 12 and also looking to right the ship in fairly short order.
“We need a shooter’s mindset,” Stars second-year head coach Glen Gulutzan said. “Shots cause confusion and if you look at San Jose, they like to put a lot of shots on net and they have success in their power play. We need a lot of that mentality. We’ve got sometimes the pass-first mentality. [Curt Fraser] has been on these guys and we’re going to put more pucks towards the net. We’re going to work a lot harder.”
But even though the Stars have dropped their last two, each by one goal, no one in the Dallas room feels that beating the Sharks, who have won just once in February, on Saturday night is a less than realistic possibility.
“Any game in the 48-game schedule’s important. Even though we lost the last two, we still feel we have confidence tonight,” Stars wing Ryan Garbutt said. “We have confidence in each other and if we go out there and play like we can, we shouldn’t have any problem getting the two points.”
Dallas will then depart on Sunday afternoon for Nashville in advance of facing the Predators on Monday. The Stars will then complete the back-to-back on Tuesday night at Columbus, a club Dallas lost to 2-1 on the Blue Jackets’ home ice earlier this year. They will then return home for a quick two-game homestand that starts on Thursday vs. the Oilers.