Lindy Ruff believes his Dallas Stars have gotten away from some of the things that made them successful at the start of the season, and that’s difficult for his players to argue given the club’s current five-game losing streak.
The issues become even more exasperating on home ice.
Dallas looks to end its skid Thursday night by earning a fourth straight home victory over the Nashville Predators, who are making their fifth stop on a six-game road trip.
The Stars (4-4-4) earned at least a point in six of their first seven contests and were riding a 4-0-1 stretch before losing their last five (0-3-2). They averaged 4.0 goals in seven games from Oct. 14-28 before getting held to one in each of the last three, going 0 for 14 on the power play.
Dallas, among the league leaders before that drought with a 25.0 percent success rate, failed to convert four power-play chances in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Los Angeles.
"When I see 19 giveaways, we’re not going to win hockey games," Ruff said. "That’s where I have to change the mentality. That’s my job. Enough of the pond hockey. Enough of open plays."
Frustration is mounting for a club that set high goals after ending a five-year playoff drought in Ruff’s first season in 2013-14. The most recent defeat came despite defenseman Sergei Gonchar (fractured ankle) making his season debut and Valeri Nichushkin (lower-body injury) returning from a nine-game absence.
The Stars’ 1-1-4 record in Dallas is especially disappointing. They’re the only Western Conference team which hasn’t won more than once at home.
"We have high expectations in this group, and we know we have a good group in here and we can be better," defenseman Brenden Dillon said. "We’ve got to improve (at home). This is our home rink, our home fans. We have to be better here."
Dallas swept three home meetings with Nashville last season and now looks to take advantage of a potentially road-weary Predators team.
Nashville (7-3-2) has split the first four of a trip that ends Saturday in St. Louis. It allowed two goals within the first six minutes Tuesday and fell 3-1 to Winnipeg.
Both of the Jets’ first-period tallies came on the power play, and opponents have gone 5 for 9 with the man advantage in the Predators’ last three games.
"I really liked the way we started," said coach Peter Laviolette, who was hit in the face with an errant puck in the first period. "We ended up taking a penalty. (Then) you’ve got to dig yourself out of a massive hole."
Filip Forsberg scored the Predators’ lone goal and has three with two assists over his last three contests.
"We just have to get a couple of more bodies in front," Forsberg said. "There’s a lot of good goalies in this league."
Nashville has one of them on its side in Pekka Rinne, who rested Tuesday but will be back in net for this contest. He’s 7-2-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average on the season and 5-1-1 with a 2.26 GAA in his last seven against the Stars.
Rinne beat Dallas 4-1 in Nashville on Oct. 11 in the teams’ first meeting as he needed just 17 saves – still a season low.
Kari Lehtonen didn’t play that night and is 3-1-0 with a 2.45 GAA in his last four against Nashville. He’s 0-2-2 with a 3.23 GAA during Dallas’ skid after a 4-0-2 start to the season.