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Fighting off Frustration

by Erin Chenderlin / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars are in a desperate situation. With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Stars sit in 12th place in the Western Conference with 74 points, three points behind eight-place Nashville. Between the Stars and the coveted eighth playoff spot sit Anaheim, Minnesota and St. Louis, all with their eyes on the same prize of catching the Predators and sneaking into the postseason.

The Stars did themselves no favors last week, heading out on a crucial three-game road trip last week that brought home three losses and zero points against Calgary, Vancouver and San Jose. They also brought home a re-injured Brad Richards, who, playing in his first game back after missing 15, broke his left hand and is out indefinitely. The frustrations are piling up, but the team says they’re nowhere near ready to quit, despite the injuries and excuses.

“They’re numerous, and we could scroll down a long list of excuses that could be made [for missing the postseason], but this team is not all about that,” Marty Turco said. “As openly criticized as we are of the position we’re in, we’re not willing to really accept defeat through excuses. We’re going to see how it all plays out over the next 10 games.”

While the temptation to let the frustration sneak in and seep into the locker room is there, the players say they’re determined to not let that happen, and they feel they still hold their own destiny in their hands. With a three-game homestand this week against Vancouver, Los Angeles and Florida, six huge points sit on the table, there for the taking.

“We have an opportunity to make our own success, so it’s kind of a do-or-die week that we have here,” Mike Modano said. “These three games at home will be crucial for us and if we can have a great week, we’re right back there.”

The key, according to Mike Ribeiro, is focusing on the game ahead of you, rather than the big picture. Staying focused and staying positive are also vital components needed for a solid effort this week that will hopefully produce three much-needed wins. Don’t look at the rest of the season, look at the next game, the next period, the next shift. Give 100 percent every single minute you’re on the ice, and the success will come.

“You can’t think that you have 10 games left – you have one game left to make a change and make a difference,” Ribeiro said. “We’re going to need everyone, from goaltending to every player in the room to make a difference and to work harder.”

Defenseman Stephane Robias agrees that success lies in sheer effort and maintaining the details of the game. They know how to play hockey, he said, they know the system and they’ve proven to themselves how good they can be. Now it’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page and focusing all their efforts together.

“If every player in this dressing room plays to the top of their ability and does their role, we win,” he said. “You need everybody on board and I think the message for us is to play better as a team.”

The general consensus around the locker room Monday morning was looking toward the future and learning from the past week. The biggest priority is staying positive and shaking away any negativity or frustration that may be looming beneath the surface.

“That’s something that you can let it eat you, or you can attack it,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said about the feelings of frustration. “I’ve always been a big believer in that you look at things like that head on and find solutions for them. It’s frustrating not winning hockey games when points are so big right now, but you’ve got to find a way to beat that and get on top of it. It can eat away at you and you’ve got to find ways to get it out of your system and bring the positive in and use the positive energy to get the results you want.”

The results are three key wins for six crucial points over the next five days. While 10 games remain in the season, the team is looking ahead only to Tuesday’s game against Vancouver.

“You don’t want to think about the next 10, you need to win the next one. If you lose, your chances get slimmer and slimmer,” Ribeiro said. “I think you have to focus on one game, win that one and go from there and re-focus after. We need to have a mindset of desperation and trying to do everything you can to make the team win.”

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