It's back and rearing its ugly head again: the road.
It has been unkind to the Dallas Stars this season. They've lost four straight games on the road and are 3-8-1 away from home on the season. And they are ready to take on the road again. They've got a two-game trip coming up to Vegas (Tuesday) and Chicago (Thursday), and are aiming to turn things around.
"It's real simple: just trust our work. Let the skill take us from there but trust the work," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock. "We are starting to do that more and more now. We had 40 great minutes against Tampa Bay, we had 55 great minutes against Colorado. It's getting better and better. If we trust our work, we've got enough skill to win hockey games. We just look like we are mentally ready to win now; we're ready to win in anybody's building."
Hitchcock said it doesn't have anything to do with home or road, but with consistency. But the records are what they are, and the Stars have done the job at home, where they are 9-2-0, and fallen short on the road.
"It's more mental than anything right now," said Stars center Jason Spezza. "It's important to get this road trip off on the right note and start with a win. There's no doubt we need to play with the lead a little more on the road, there are some things Hitch has talked about we can do better. It's the same game, we've just been a little inconsistent with our effort."
The Stars have played well in stretches in games on the road, but they've struggled to handle big pushes by the home team, and they've tried to do too much too quickly to catch up instead of being patient. And that's exacerbated problems and led to games getting away from them.
"A lot of it has to do with our mindset. We need to play like we do at home. We know how we can play," said center Tyler Seguin. "A lot of it is that emotion. On the road when we get uncomfortable we kind of shy away and when we are at home we are always comfortable, and that's why we play the way we do. When we get uncomfortable on the road we need to raise our level more, compete more."
Video: Stars ready for fathers' trip to Vegas
"We need to know that adversity will come, embrace it and bounce back from it," said forward Devin Shore. "Every single guy has to keep his mental focus and stay with it when things go bad."
The road trip to Chicago and Vegas will have a different feel. Players and team staff are bringing fathers, relatives, and mentors on the trip. It's a chance to experience life on the road with an NHL team -- the practices, meetings and pregame talks.
Fifteen of the players will have their fathers on the trip. A little payback for all their fathers did to help them get to where they are now.
"I know all the dads love it," said Shore. "They get to go behind the scenes and meet the other dads. It's really cool for us players because they, along with our mothers, siblings, and support staff are the reason why we are here."
The Stars are hoping that having the dads on the trip will help change the team's fortunes on the road.
"It's probably good timing for us with the struggles we've had on the road to shake things up," said Spezza.
"They want to put on a good show. They want to make their parents proud," said Hitchcock. "You see more emotion, you see more intensity. You see them doing the little things that the coach is demanding, and it's not just coming from the coach, they want to put a good show on for their parents."
Notes: Johns practices, probable for Tuesday
Stars defenseman Stephen Johns, who suffered an upper-body injury in Friday's win over Calgary, practiced Monday. He's probable for Tuesday's game against Vegas. "I think we are awaiting approval from the athletic therapist's staff," Hitchcock said. "He was a full participant at practice today, so we are assuming he'll ready for tomorrow."
Hitchcock said Ben Bishop would get the start Tuesday against the Golden Knights but after that the goaltending plan is undecided. "I just want to go one day at a time," Hitchcock said. "Ben is in tomorrow, and we'll see from there. We've got Chicago two games in a row, big games, four-pointers again. I just want to play the game on Tuesday and then read it from there."
"I'll tell you after. We'll see. We've heard the stories, and we just don't want to be any of the stories. Other than a win." - Stars coach Ken Hitchcock when asked about the upcoming road trip to Las Vegas
Here's how the Stars lined up in Monday's practice.
Devin Shore - Jamie Benn - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Gemel Smith - Martin Hanzal - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Stephen Johns - Julius Honka
Extra skaters: Remi Elie, Jamie Oleksiak
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.