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'It is on us': Stars know time is now to turn season around

As Dallas embarks on a six-game road trip, it's still within shooting distance of the Central's final playoff spot

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Overtime and shootout losses have been a concern for the Stars all season, as Dallas has lost a possible nine points by losing when games have gone past regulation.

On the flip side, getting one point out of those games has left this team just under .500 and still in shooting distance of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.

With four teams all within a tight clump when it comes to points percentage, and with the Stars having three extra games to play, there still is a realistic chance to make a move in the final 24 games of the season. But if ever there was a time to start stringing together wins, it's now. Dallas heads out on a six-game road trip that starts Tuesday and includes four games against teams the Stars are chasing (the Predators and Blackhawks). It is a great opportunity after a wake-up call loss to Florida on Sunday.

"The road trip is there for us if we want it," said Stars coach Rick Bowness. "If we go on the road and win some games, we're alive. We aren't that far out, but it has to come now."

Video: Bowness on Stars' flat 1st period in loss to Panthers

The Stars have been a puzzle of inconsistency, part of which has been because of key injuries. Tyler Seguin (hip) and Ben Bishop (knee) have missed the entire season so far because of off-season surgeries. Roope Hintz (lower body) and Alexander Radulov (lower body) have been in and out of the lineup because of nagging injuries. So it's easy to see that this has been a tough run. The coaching staff is having to juggle lines every game, and the Stars have really struggled with finishing some great scoring chances.

But if Dallas wants any inspiration, it's all over the Central Division. Florida won two games in Dallas with leading scorers Aleksander Barkov and Patric Hornqvist out of the lineup, and lost defenseman Aaron Ekblad midgame Sunday. Nashville is without Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis, Filip Forsberg, Juuse Saros and a few others, and still has gone 7-1-0 in its past eight games to puts itself in the driver's seat in terms of the final playoff spot.

That makes this two-game series against the Predators on Tuesday and Thursday huge in terms of the standings.

"Obviously, we have to correct things pretty quick here, but none of us in that room think that we are down and out," said forward Blake Comeau. "I still feel like we are a very confident group. We just have to go out there and play with that confidence. We have a lot of games against teams that we are chasing and there are going to be big swings, and we still feel like we are right there."

Video: Dickinson: Stars in 'desperate situation right now'

That is the beauty of the division-centric scheduling format caused by the COVID pandemic. You play each divisional team eight times, so anyone can make up ground pretty quickly, and standings can shift around quite a bit over the span of two weeks.

Still, Dallas has squandered so many opportunities to add points that they now have to make up ground on the road. Dallas plays 16 of its final 24 games away from home, and is so far 4-6-2 on the road. Still, shaking things up might not be the worst thing for a team that is 7-6-7 at home right now.

"Yeah, sure, it could be," forward Jason Dickinson said when asked if going on the road could be a good thing. "We know we have a tough road ahead and we know we are playing teams that we are chasing, so we have to bear down here on this road trip."

And while they have come close, there is something missing right now that coaches and players are working to find. It was definitely lacking in the first period Sunday, and that was a bit of a surprise to all involved.

Video: Comeau: Stars still 'very confident group' after loss

"You have to look inside yourself and get the desperation level a little higher," Dickinson said. "The coaches can't go out there and win games. They put out the game plan for us, but we have to go out there and do it, ultimately. If we are not willing to do that, then it is on us.

"I think we are," Dickinson added. "We have a group in here that wants it. Nobody here is sitting back and saying `Next season,' or `We have all these injuries.' No one is saying that. We want to go for it."

Now seems a good time to materialize those feelings on the ice, to make the passion incarnate.

"We just have to figure out a way to be clicking on all cylinders here," Comeau said. "We know that time is running out and we can't take any longer to figure it out, but, like I said, we play a lot of teams that we are chasing, and we still feel very confident in the room. We just have to do a better job of executing and coming out prepared to play."

 

Stars at Predators

Tuesday 7 p.m. CT

Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM

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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