Stars look to captialize on long home stretch

FRISCO, Texas– With a 5-4-1 record at American Airlines Center so far this season, the Dallas Stars’ home record isn’t quite where second-year head coach Glen Gulutzan would like it to be. However, the Stars will have plenty of opportunities to better their mark at the American Airlines Center as nine of their next 11 games will be at home, including the start of a four-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators.

“Well, we know we’ve got four big games at home here. We need to get points. You look at our road record, it’s satisfactory. One game above .500 on the road is enough to get you in the playoffs. You look at the teams ahead of us and you look at their home record, our home record has to reflect that as well,” Gulutzan said after practice on Monday. “We’ve got to get that .700 to .750 at home and that starts in these next four games.”

Unfortunately, Dallas could be without both top-line center Jamie Benn (wrist) and captain Brenden Morrow (groin) for Tuesday’s battle with the Preds, who have won three straight against the Stars.

However, Tuesday’s game could also mark the first game for veteran forward Ray Whitney, one of Dallas’ most high-profile additions this off-season who has missed the last 16 games after having foot surgery in early February.

“Whitney today [Monday] is going to see the doctor this afternoon,” Gulutzan said. “He felt pretty good. I think it’ll be up to Whits to decide if it is the right thing to do to put him in.”

Should Whitney return on Tuesday, he will most likely skate on Dallas’ second line alongside two other newcomers in center Derek Roy and left wing Erik Cole, who was recently acquired from Montreal in a trade for Michael Ryder. That was the trio Gulutzan ran out there during practice on Monday and if that’s a group that sticks together, maybe it could even be dubbed the Newbie line since all three are relatively new to the Stars.

The Stars split their quick two-game trip out west last week, winning 5-1 at the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Thursday but falling 2-0 at Phoenix on Saturday night. And even though Dallas has recently had its share of struggles at home, at least when it comes to winning games and coming away with the full two points, the man behind the Dallas bench isn’t too concerned about how his club has performed at the American Airlines Center through their first 10 games of the year on home ice.

“We never had any consistency at home. I see some teams have played 15-16 games at home already. Ours have been spread out. We had some in the beginning where we didn’t have a lineup and we still won’t for a few days here, but we’ve got four at home and it’s time to get on a roll at home and that’s the key,” Gulutzan said. “I think we’re a game above [.500] here and if we take points in these four games, then we’re not talking about our home record.”

Benn may or may not play in Tuesday’s game to open the homestand, but the 2012 NHL All-Star could return as soon as Thursday when the Stars face the Ducks. The run of games at home will also see Dallas host Chicago on Saturday and Calgary on Monday before the Stars again head out of town for another quick two-game road trip before returning home to start a five-game homestand, their longest of the season.

And after leaving their share of points on the table at home so far this season, one of the biggest names on the Dallas roster knows there is no time like the present for him and his teammates to start picking it up a bit in front of the Stars faithful and rack up some serious points during this current long run of games at home.

“Yeah, this is a huge time, especially this whole month we’ve got quite a few games at home,” Benn said. “So we’ve got to take advantage of it and get as many points as we can while we’re here.”