After finishing their recent five-game homestand with an at least somewhat disappointing 2-2-1 record, the Dallas Stars headed to New York City on Sunday in advance of a three-game road trip that starts Monday at the New York Islanders.
Dallas officially hit the halfway point in the 2013-14 regular season with Saturday’s 5-1 loss to former division rival Detroit, and will begin the second half against the Isles with a 20-14-7 record.
So, with his club officially halfway through the regular season, Stars captain Jamie Benn reflected on how the first 41 games have gone.
"We want to be in a playoff spot and we’re not there yet," Benn said. "We’ve had some pretty good games and some not so good. We’re going to have to find a way in the second half here to improve as a team and find a way to make a push for the playoffs."
But the most impressive part of their record to date is the Stars’ 11-8-2 road record.
"We’ve had good success on the road for whatever reason," Stars center Shawn Horcoff said. "We seem to really come together well and find ways to win, and this is going to be a big road trip for us."
In the loss to Detroit, the Stars lost defenseman Aaron Rome to an upper-body injury and Dallas first-year head coach Lindy Ruff said in his postgame remarks to the media that Rome would miss the entire road trip.
However, the Stars figure to get one big boost at the blue line with Monday marking the likely return of Sergei Gonchar, who has missed the last six games with concussion symptoms, to the ice for Dallas.
And fellow veteran d-man Trevor Daley, who has missed 14 consecutive games with a high-ankle sprain, could also return against the Isles. But if "Dales" doesn’t return on Monday, then he’ll more than likely return to the blue line no later than Thursday, when the Stars begin a back-to-back at the Devils.
"Every day it feels a little bit better," Daley said after morning skate on Saturday. "You feel good, happy when you just get back on the ice, but it is good to feel the progress come and get back to where you were before. It wasn’t so long ago that it was good, so you know where you need to get to."
With Dallas down to just five healthy defensemen against the Red Wings, Alex Goligoski racked up a whopping 30:22 of ice time and is starting to show some cracks from overwork. So, Ruff can’t be happier to see Gonchar and Daley both returning to the blue line this week.
"I think our defense kind of hit a wall, especially the pair we’ve really put pressure on, Alex (Goligoski) and Brenden (Dillon)," Ruff said after the Detroit game. "We’ve got to get our D healthy, and it looks like that’s not happening now. We’re disappointed with the last couple of games, but we know what we need to do to get better in the second half."
Their first opponent of the trip, the Islanders, is currently 15th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference standings and the Isles have won just once on home ice in their last 10 games, so Monday night appears to be a great chance to kick off this road trip in positive fashion, a great way for the Stars to start their second-half surge.