DALLAS -- There is no doubt the Dallas Stars have had their troubles against the Colorado Avalanche during the past three seasons, but they need a reversal of fortunes Thursday night with a critical contest at American Airlines Center.
Colorado is 7-1-2 against Dallas in the past 10 meetings, including a pair of victories this season. The Stars currently have 91 points and are four behind Chicago, which holds the eighth position in the West standings. A loss to Colorado would deal a near-critical blow to their hopes of ending a two-year playoff drought.
These teams haven't seen each other since late November, when Colorado beat Dallas 4-3 in a shootout here. That win came just two weeks after the Avalanche won 5-0 in Denver.
"We played them three times in exhibition and twice at the start of the season and every game was just a dogfight except for the one where they trounced us pretty effectively early in the season," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "But it was our third game in four days. They're a very hard-working team. They play a very aggressive forechecking game. They're very hard in the back. We have to outwork this team tonight."
Dallas could get a boost from the possible return of winger Adam Burish for Thursday's game. A valuable member of the Stars' penalty kill and also a player who brings tons of positive energy to the club, he has missed the last 11 games with a lower-body injury.
Burish will be a game-time decision.
"Well, he's becoming more of a possibility. That's about all you can really say right now," Crawford said. "I appreciate that he's really playing hard and trying to put himself in a position to play. We'll see tonight."
The Stars are coming off a 3-0 win Tuesday night against Columbus, with the goals coming from Steve Ott, Loui Eriksson and Brenden Morrow. All-Star center Brad Richards had an assist and looks close to being the player he was before he missed 10 games because of concussion-like symptoms.
"The last game, I thought that might have been maybe his best game since he's come back. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come," Crawford said. "He's still very good on the penalty kill when he has space and he has time, but getting into those spaces is a little more arduous since the injury."
In their earlier losses to Colorado, Milan Hejduk and Phillippe Dupuis combined for seven points. Neutralizing the duo this time around would help the Stars' chances for a win immensely.
"[Hejduk] is an older, veteran guy who has quick skill. He likes to take guys one-on-one," Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley said. "He's a highly-skilled player that we're going to have to keep our eye on tonight."
While Colorado currently sits near the bottom of the West standings, the entire Stars roster is aware of what sorts of challenges they present.
"A lot of speed, they're a team that plays fast. I remember a couple of times we played them, we couldn't really match their tempo," Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "They're a team that works really hard. They've had some injuries. I think that's why they're where they are in the standings. It's still a good team."