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Can Stars make hay during long homestand? There's no better time than now

The six-game stay in Dallas is the definition of opportunity, stretching over three weeks with plenty of rest in between

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- For all of the problems the Stars are having this season -- and there are many -- they still sit solidly in a playoff spot right now and are about to play six straight games at home with plenty of rest in between.

It is the very definition of an opportunity for this team.

"Yeah, big," Stars forward Devin Shore said of the stretch.

Dallas is 9-13-2 on the road, and 14-5-2 at home, so that naturally leads to the belief that this team can collect points at American Airlines Center. But the Stars also seem to play a different game at home. Dallas ranks 11th in scoring at home at 3.29 goals per game. They rank 30th in road scoring at 2.13. The Stars also take an average of 33.1 shots on goal per game at home vs. 27.9 on the road.

Defensively, the Stars are closer -- allowing 2.48 goals per game at home and 2.79 on the road.

"You want to take care of home ice for sure, but I think at this point every game you want to get the result," Shore said. "Regardless of the arena you're playing in, you want to bring the same product every night, and bring the same brand of hockey. For the short term, if it gives us more confidence being in our rink, then we'll take it. But we just want to make sure we're bringing the same thing every night, regardless of what building we're in."

Video: Montgomery: Not enough players had an impact in loss

And that is the key to long-term success for this team. Still, if the Stars can fix some of their scoring woes at home, then maybe that can continue with improved scoring when they play a stretch of 10-of-14 on the road later in February and March.

Bottom line, coach Jim Montgomery wants his team to aspire to a higher ideal.

"Everything we're trying to accomplish as a group is we're trying to get better in facets that will allow us to win any kind of game, and will allow us to push through any kind of situation," Montgomery said.

"Adversity on the road, adversity at home, injuries, getting dominated in a 10-minute section, being able to weather a storm and push back - all of those things are things we're trying to get better at."

This run will allow the Stars to delve into a lot of areas. They play divisional opponents in St. Louis and Winnipeg and also games against Tampa Bay and Los Angeles before they get to shut things down for the All-Star Break and the bye week. When they return, they get games against Buffalo and Minnesota before hitting the road again.

With Montgomery in his first year as Stars coach, there should be the opportunity to address some of the issues the team has faced.

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"We've won games where we shouldn't have, we've lost games where we shouldn't have, that's going to happen," Montgomery said. "But learning throughout those processes and believing in what your team identity is and playing to it will give you strength and allow you to have success later in the year."

Of course, it's also a lot easier to learn and have strength when you have a bit of cushion in the standings, so if a Stars team that currently is 23-18-4 can create some gap in the chase for a playoff spot, that's huge in a lot of ways.

"It's important," said captain Jamie Benn. "We play two divisional games before the break and the best team in the league (Tampa Bay) and LA, which is a good team, so we need to take advantage of these home games and see what we can do with it."

Because even during a 5-2-1 run that preceded this homestand, the Stars are showing they can be a lot better.

"We've been winning games, but I feel our team can take another step," said forward Tyler Pitlick.

And there's no better time than 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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