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By sticking to identity, Stars believe goals will come

Seeking more scoring following back-to-back shutouts, Dallas continues to embrace its strong defensive structure

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

FRISCO, Texas -- The Stars are going to juggle lines and try to possess the puck more and try to score goals, but they aren't going to change their identity.

That was apparent on Monday.

Dallas has scored just one goal in the past three games and is in the middle of an 0-3-2 slump that has seen the Central Division leaders open up a big gap in the standings. That has caused much introspection on how the team wants to create offense and play with the puck.

 

[GAME DAY GUIDE: What you need to know before the Stars face off against the Rangers]

 

But while the Stars still are a work in progress under interim coach Rick Bowness, the belief that this team will be tight defensively is still strong.

"When you're not scoring and you try to open it up, it usually backfires, and this group hasn't done that. So it just comes down to us trying to find an extra goal or two and we'll be all right," said forward Joe Pavelski. "But that part of our game, the structure and the commitment, we understand that's the strength of our team and we don't want to get away from that."

The Stars went through a 9-3-3 February where they averaged 3.04 goals a game, and felt they were starting to find their stride. However, they lost a 2-1 shootout to Edmonton last Tuesday, lost a 2-0 game at Nashville Thursday, and then lost a 1-0 game at home to Nashville Saturday. It was a frustrating display of the team's Achilles heel, and it could easily cause some amount of panic.

Video: Pavelski on Stars' search for scoring after shutouts

Dallas ranks 26th in the league in scoring at 2.59 goals per game after ranking 28th last season at 2.55. Leading scorer Tyler Seguin ranks 68th in the league with 50 points in 67 games. Jamie Benn is on pace for his worst points per game (0.57) since his rookie season in 2009-10. Pavelski had 38 goals in 75 games with the Sharks last season. He has 14 in 65 games with the Stars.

That sets off a few alarms.

"You go through these stretches," Bowness said after Saturday's loss. "It's bad timing, but this is playoff hockey right now. It's a grind, it's low scoring, and you've got to find ways. We're finding lots of ways to produce good chances, and that's the most important thing. Eventually, the puck will go in if we keep doing what we're doing."

Bowness and the coaching staff on Monday shuffled the lines a little. After trying Justin Dowling on the top line with Benn and Seguin Saturday, they are expected to return Corey Perry there for Tuesday's game against the Rangers. They also broke up the traditional checking line by putting Jason Dickinson on the left wing in place of Andrew Cogliano.

"We put Dickie up there for offense. We just need a little more offense," Bowness said of the fact Dickinson has nine goals to two for Cogliano and should fit well with Radek Faksa (11 goals) and Blake Comeau (eight goals).

"That line has done a great job for us all year, and Corey fit well with Seggy and Jamie, and the other lines all look good, so it's a matter of making sure a guy like Dickie keeps his minutes up. He's got to have good minutes out there, and Faksy too, so keep their minutes where they should be."

Video: Bowness on lineup changes, gives update on Radulov

Alexander Radulov continues to be out with illness, so Dowling is expected to play on the fourth line with Cogliano and Mattias Janmark. Again, it's slight juggling with the hope that it could spark some offense. The Stars on Saturday had a 37-23 advantage in shots on goal against Nashville. They had a 43-27 edge against Edmonton in their previous home game. That's part of a push for more possession time in the offensive zone, and there is a feeling that the push has been successful despite the lack of goals.

The key, however, is maintaining a defensive scheme and not losing position while trying to increase the scoring.

"If those numbers are trending in the right direction, it's going to test you to stay with it and not veer off in a different direction," Pavelski said. "When you're in this situation, there's always something you can do a little better. You look at yourself and you've got to make a better shot or you've got to be a little tougher. There's more that we can do, and we'll try to all do it next game."

Because, at their heart, these are players who want to score more goals.

"I would say everybody in that room, we enjoy scoring goals," Pavelski said with a smile. "We expect to score goals, but one of the things that is pretty important to our team is that structure defensively and playing a team game. It's encouraging that hasn't slipped. We don't have guys cheating on the wrong side of the puck right now.

"Some people might say you need to press a little more and go get something, but we believe with the talent we have in that room that it's going to come."

 

Stars (37-23-8) vs. Rangers (36-28-4)

Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest; ESPN+

Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars battle the New York Rangers as the homestand continues at American Airlines Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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