Stars have unfinished business before start of Olympic break

Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (6) celebrates the 2-0 victory against the Anaheim Ducks with center Tyler Seguin (91) following the third period at Honda Center.  

Gary A. Vasquez/Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

FRISCO, Texas—Lindy Ruff isn’t one to speak in hyperbole, so when the Dallas Stars head coach said before the start of the four-game stretch his club would play heading into the NHL’s Olympic break, he stated that winning at least three of those four games was imperative for the Stars to feel good about themselves heading into the 19-day break.

Well, not only did Dallas fare well during last week’s three-game trip to Anaheim, Phoenix and San Jose, winning two of the three and taking five of a possible six points, but with a win on Saturday against the Coyotes at American Airlines Center, the Stars now have the chance to head into the Olympic break on a serious run of good form, which was the goal all along.

But as Stars veteran winger Erik Cole so eloquently put it after practice on Friday, if they don’t take care of business on Saturday against the same Phoenix club they beat 3-1 in the desert on Tuesday, then all that talk about heading into the break on a high note will be for naught.

"Yeah, obviously it was an important four-game stretch for us. That was an important road trip for us. It’s a situation where we’ve done the first part of it by winning some games on the road there, but it doesn’t mean anything if we give it right back to them at home," Cole said. "So we have to have a real good sendoff here before the break and have a complete game. With the team coming in played the night before, it’s going to be important for us to have a good start and be smart with the puck and play offensively.”

And while Ruff might not deal in hyperbole, one cliché the veteran NHL head coach does buy into is the concept of a four-point game, a contest so pivotal that it can swing the pendulum in favor of one team in terms of a playoff spot and Ruff see’s Saturday’s game with the Coyotes, who will be on the tail end of a back-to-back after hosting reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago on Friday night, as such a game.

”Well, we’re playing a team we need to beat. You couldn’t ask for anything more. Those games are really important. Somebody says four-point games. There really are games that can make the difference. By the end of the year, you’re going to look back on certain games and that one will probably be one of them," Ruff said.

He added: "But for us, every game here, in the last seven or eight, has been one of those games where we need to win. Before we left on this road trip, we talked about what’s going to be a good road trip? And we thought two out of three would have been good, but five out of six points is even better and you look back and think you could’ve gotten that last point, it would have been one hell of a road trip.”

Once Dallas resumes play after the Sochi Olympics on Feb. 27 against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Stars will have exactly 24 games remaining before the end of the regular season.

And seeing how his team is already well past the season’s halfway point, Ruff can’t help but take pride in how much progress the Stars have made since the start of his tenure last summer.

”Yeah, I think that’s the key part about a team that wants to get better, that believes we’re not good enough," Ruff said. "We’ve made adjustments to how we want to play and they’ve bought into the adjustments and we’re getting rewarded for it.”