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Big Road Trip Awaits Stars

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

After a quick, two-game homestand, the Dallas Stars hit the road on Wednesday afternoon to start a five-game trek that will see them play a pair of games out west against Pacific Division foes in San Jose and Los Angeles before traveling across the country in advance of three games against Eastern Conference foes in the New York Rangers, Islanders and New Jersey Devils.

Radek Dvorak
That trip commences on Thursday night when the Stars will face the Sharks at HP Pavilion, the first meeting of this season at the Shark Tank. But these clubs did square off in Dallas on Nov. 19 and it was San Jose who came away with a 4-1 win.

And while the final outcome from that divisional clash wasn’t exactly what he wanted, Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan saw plenty to like from how his team played in that loss to the Sharks, things he’d like to see again later this week.

“They came into our building and beat us and played hard. We just want to go back into their building, play hard and see what happens again,” Gulutzan said. “We thought we played a pretty good game against them. We took some penalties but played a pretty good game. We just want to bring that same game and see what transpires again.”

Just two days after facing San Jose, the Stars travel to Los Angeles to face the Kings on Saturday night at Staples Center. It’s their second trip of the year to the City of Angels. On Oct. 22, despite putting together one of their better 60-minute efforts of the season, Dallas fell 1-0.

And the Stars also lost to the same Kings 5-3 just five days later at American Airlines center but returned the favor on Nov. 23 with a 3-2 win in Dallas.

But Gulutzan isn’t about to look ahead to the LA game, that’s because he knows starting off the trip with a favorable result in San Jose on Thursday is of the utmost importance as far as setting a favorable tone for the entire 10-day trek.

“We kind of break our season off into little segments and this road trip is going to be part of one of those segments. I think the key to any road trip is to get off and get a good start. We’ve got a real tough game with San Jose [to start this one],” Gulutzan said.

Veteran winger Radek Dvorak is currently in his 17th NHL season and while the 34-year-old Czech has seen his share of road trips during his time in the league, he can’t remember the last time he had one where his team played on both coasts before returning home.

“Yeah, I haven’t had that for a long time, going from one side [of the country] to the other. But huge games, a huge road trip-five games in 10 days. It’s a lot of games. It’s 10 points on the line,” Dvorak said. “We start in San Jose, a big divisional game and same with LA. That’s a huge four points for us. You need every point.”

And the seasoned forward knows he and his teammates can’t look at the trip as one body of work. No, they need to continue taking things day-by-day and game-by-game.

“It starts with the first game in San Jose. We have to go game-to-game. We can’t look forward too much,” Dvorak said. “Go from shift to shift and game to game, try to get wins and play the Dallas Stars game. Then, I think we’ll be fine.”

The Stars figure to get a boost from the return of defensemen Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski, who have missed the last few games due to injury, as soon as Thursday against the Sharks. Dallas also should get back another key member soon with captain Brenden Morrow also close to returning.

Dallas is 4-3-1 against the Eastern Conference so far this season after losing 5-4 to the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the AAC. The Stars will get a second crack at the Isles next Thursday, Dec. 15 at the Nassau Memorial Coliseum but before then, they will also face fellow East foes the New York Rangers two days prior and will finish the trip at New Jersey one week from Friday.

But one player who figures to be crucial to the club’s success is winger Loui Eriksson, currently second on the team with 22 points (10-12-22). The 2011 NHL All-Star winger knows this is a long road trip, which will number 10 days by the time the club returns to the Lone Star State after facing the Devils, but it’s a challenge he and his teammates welcome.

“Yeah, we’re going to be away for a lot of days here. It’s a real tough road trip coming up for us,” Eriksson said. “We’re going to play against two good teams here in San Jose and LA at the beginning. Those are going to be big games for us. We need to get the two points from them. I think those are going to be some really hard-working games.”

However, one thing that should help the Stars’ acclimation to jumping several time zones after the game at LA this Saturday is the fact that they have a two full days between the game against the Kings and their visit to Madison Square Garden next Tuesday to face the Rangers.

“Well, if you get two days in between, I think it’s fine,” Dvorak said. “With the time change and everything, it’s tough but with two days in between, you get one day to recover. That’s what you need. It’s something you have to accept. We have a schedule but since we get a couple of days, I don’t think it will be a problem. Just another road trip, that’s all.”

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