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Stars enjoying home cooking, no matter how short the visits

The team hasn't had much time in Dallas lately with a road-heavy slate, but that's not stopping its success at AAC

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The Stars have had a couple of odd home games in recent weeks, as they were home for just one game after Thanksgiving and then returned home after four road games to play at home Monday before getting three days off.

In both situations, the Stars were impressive, beating Ottawa 6-4 and Edmonton 4-1. That has pushed Dallas to 6-1-1 in their past eight home games and made them 9-3-1 overall at American Airlines Center.

"Even though we were coming off the road with only one day between, it is completely revitalizing at home," said forward Jason Dickinson, who has scored four of his five games at home. "It's just a completely different atmosphere."

Dallas is finding a rhythm at home, and that's been kind of surprising to some of the newcomers. While the Stars were 26-12-3 last season at home and played to an average crowd of 18,110 (97.7 percent capacity), they still are a Sunbelt team. That means seeing crowds that rival Canadian arenas is a little unexpected.

"To be honest, I've been surprised coming from Edmonton," said forward Tyler Pitlick. "It's usually a full building and I've just really been impressed with the fans and how excited they are. It's great, and we do draw energy from them."

Video: Stars sweat, compete in 'fun' draft-style practice

Stars coach Jim Montgomery added: "I think the environment has a lot to do with it. There's an energy in the AAC building that I think gets us going, but also it's nice to be with your family. Your routine becomes regular and it's easier to focus."

Dallas is in a stretch where it will play 17 of 24 games on the road. After this two-game homestand, they will head out and play four more road games before returning for a pretty good stretch in Dallas. While they have worked hard to get their road record up to 6-7-2, they know that winning teams have to make hay at home.

"You're shooting for .500 or better on the road, and that means you have to win a lot more than that at home," Pitlick said. "It's very important, just look at the home record of the good teams."

And while there are only brief chances to improve the home record during this stretch of the schedule, the Stars really do look like a different team for these games in Dallas.

"It is that comfort level," Dickinson said. "Being at the AAC, we can get in our groove there. I think our fans have been awesome. They create so much energy. They're excited about the sport, and you can tell it's not just the amazing plays, they enjoy the game and enjoy everything about it, so it's great to play here."


Hanzal could play Friday

Stars center Martin Hanzal had March spinal fusion surgery and has not played a game this season. He has now been cleared to return, and could play as early as Friday, Montgomery said.

"His doctor and him have spoke and he's cleared," Montgomery said after practice Tuesday. "We think he's going to be a player (Friday against San Jose), but I'm not going to say 100 percent, because you never know what's going to happen at Thursday's practice. But he had a big smile on his face today, and I guess he knocked a few people over in the (scrimmage) game."

The Stars will have to make a roster move to take Hanzal off of IR.

"It's a great problem to have," Montgomery said. "We're excited to have a healthy problem like that."


No timeline for Johns, Methot on return

Montgomery said John Klingberg (broken hand) is targeting Dec. 27 for his return, but could come back quicker if his hand responds well.

"Klingberg, I think the latest would be the 27th, but he might be right before Christmas…" Montgomery said. "As soon as he's ready to stickhandle the puck and tie his laces."

The coach said that neither Stephen Johns (neck/headaches) nor Marc Methot (knee) are skating and there is no target date for their returns. Johns has not played a game this season, while Methot has played nine.

"I wish I could tell you they're all going to be back in a week or three weeks, but we really don't know," Montgomery said.

Johns has been bothered by headaches and ringing in his head since training camp. Montgomery said it has been frustrating for everyone.

"I have a lot of empathy for Stephen right now, just because he wants to be a player and he's really frustrated," Montgomery said. "Simple things such as asking him how he's doing, I think he's frustrated by those questions, so I kind of let him be and say, `Hi Stephen, we're with you.'"

Alexander Radulov was given a maintenance day Tuesday. He blocked a shot Saturday in Vancouver and still has some pain.

"He played a little tender yesterday, and that's why he wasn't moving as well as usual," Montgomery said. "A couple of days rest and he'll be fine."

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 and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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