FRISCO, Texas — After splitting the first two games of the Lindy Ruff era last week at American Airlines Center, losing 4-2 to Florida on Thursday before beating Washington 2-1 on Saturday to earn Ruff his first win behind the bench, the Dallas Stars now embark on their first road trip of the season.
It’s a trip that will see them play in Winnipeg on Friday against the Jets, who are off to a 2-1-0 start. Then on Saturday comes the season’s first back-to-back in Minnesota, where the Wild are 0-1-2 early on.
The Stars will then have a day off in Denver on Sunday before facing the Avalanche, off to a 3-0-0 start under new head coach Patrick Roy on Monday night at the Pepsi Center before returning to the Lone Star State in advance of Thursday’s game with San Jose at the AAC.
And with so many new faces on the roster after numerous off-season changes, getting out on the road is definitely a good thing in terms of building team chemistry and getting to know some of the newer additions to the club.
“Yeah, it’s good to get out on the road. We haven’t had our full team on the road yet. You go and you find a way to develop a recipe for the road. It’s a little bit harder on the road because they have last change and the home team obviously has an advantage, but we’ve got to be good on the road this year. Good teams find a way to win,” Stars center Vernon Fiddler said. “As far as bonding and stuff, we’ve got a couple days off. Hopefully we can all get together for dinners and try to get to know the guys that weren’t here last year a little bit better and come together.”
Dallas was 11-11-2 on the road during the truncated 2012-13 season thanks to the lockout and the Stars struggled in the second game of back-to-backs in recent history, especially under the two-year tenure of Glen Gulutzan. Of course, improving his club’s road record is a big priority for Ruff as well as their mark on the second night of a back-to-back.
The veteran NHL coach saw plenty to like in Dallas’ 2-1 win over the Capitals last weekend, positives he feels the Stars can definitely carry forward into this trip.
“There was a lot of good stuff. I still think we need to get a little bit better in the offensive zone, a little bit better with the puck possession,” Ruff said.
He also applauded his players’ effort against the Caps, which he feels was greatly improved over how they played two nights earlier in the two-goal loss to the Panthers.
“Well, I thought the effort was real good. I thought some guys relaxed and made a lot better plays than they did in the first game. We had some great opportunities that we let slip away to really put the game away,” Ruff said. “Even when the game was on the line, we were doing a real good job of defending and not giving away anything big.”
At 41, Stars winger Ray Whitney is currently the oldest player on the roster. And the veteran who has been in the NHL for more than two decades now has been on his share of road trips but has grown to see the positive and negative aspects of a trek like Dallas embarked on heading into the weekend.
“Well, there’s not a lot of time to bond when you’ve got back-to-back games on the road to start. But we’ve got a day off in Colorado later after that. I don’t know if you want to say there’s too much bonding. You’ve got guys going and doing their own things. Young guys do one thing and old guys do another, so you don’t have 23 guys hanging around and moving from place to place,” Whitney said. “But when you’re with each other for six days straight, you either learn to like each other or dislike each other.”
He added: “It’s an opportunity to get out early on the road for a fairly long trip to determine whether we really like each other or not. But it’ll be good. Get some time off in Denver, different things guys can do, we try to bring some guys with us, some new guys, when we do some different things. The Broncos are playing [on Sunday]. That’s always an option if we’re up to it or feel up to it. Road trips, they’re taxing. But like I said, it is a good opportunity to get to know your teammates a little bit better.”
New Stars captain Jamie Benn definitely enjoys the camaraderie aspect of road trips, but he’s also viewing these games with the Jets, Wild and Avalanche for what they are, a trio of contests against some pretty tough opponents and on their home ice to boot.
“It’s going to be a tough road trip. Winnipeg’s not an easy place to play and then a back-to-back with Minnesota, it’s going to be a challenge but it’s going to be nice to be on the road with the guys,” Benn said. “We have a day off Sunday in Colorado. We’ll probably do something as a team and keep building chemistry.”