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Friday Update: Stars Look to Establish Home Ice

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

After winning two of three on the road, the Dallas Stars would like to get something going at home, where they play their next two games and seven of the next ten.

“It’s huge. The really good teams are just beasts at home. They lose a handful of games at home every year,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “It’s really hard to go into those buildings and win. I think that is our next step here.”

Saturday, the Stars will play their first home game since opening night when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers.

Dallas is coming off wins at Columbus and Pittsburgh, but they are still a work in progress. There is some inconsistency in their game.

In Columbus on Tuesday they blew a 2-0 lead and then won the game in the third period. In Pittsburgh Thursday night they fell behind 2-0 early when Pittsburgh scored two power play goals, but rallied late to win 3-2 when Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin scored in the final three minutes to erase a 2-1 deficit. Ups and downs are going to happen in games, but in both Columbus and Pittsburgh the Stars opened the door for the opposition by taking trips to the penalty box.

“It’s a little bit of everything. The penalties have definitely got us in trouble and our penalty kill hasn’t been great. Teams have gotten momentum off it and that’s part of it,” said Goligoski. “We’re still looking for consistency. Early in the year, it seems you can go on runs of really good play and not as good play. It’s going on runs instead of playing real good, consistent hockey. I don’t know why it is, but it just seems that way.”

But despite some ups and downs, the Stars have won two straight and put together a 2-1-1 record four games into the season, and Stars coach Lindy Ruff offered this assessment of his team a little more than a week into the season.

“I think we’ve played some real good hockey at times and there are times I wish we had played better,” Ruff said. “We’ve made some big mistakes. We had some big turnovers. Our penalty kill has given up a couple goals I wish it hadn’t given up. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We are trying to see where everybody fits. There’s been a lot of good. We played two teams that were undefeated (Columbus, Pittsburgh) on the road and we won both games. I don’t think you take that for granted.”

Lehtonen off to solid start

Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen had a rough preseason, but he is off to a solid start in the regular season. He’s posted a 2-0-1 record with a 1.95 goals against average and .933 save percentage in his first three starts of the season.

“I like where he is at,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I think he has been able to get comfortable even in some tough situations in the game. That tells me that he has everything under control. It was a rough preseason for him, but this early he has answered the bell. We’ve had some good play in front of him and when we’ve had some bad play he’s really stepped up for us.”

Penalty kill woes

The Stars’ penalty kill has had some issues early in the season, surrendering four goals in the first four games. It allowed two Thursday night in Pittsburgh, putting the Stars in an early hole.

“I’ve got my opinion on the way we killed penalties. I’ll just say that is my responsibility,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I thought we were passive, way too passive. If you are going to give [Evgeni] Malkin, [Sidney] Crosby, [Kris] Letang and those guys that much time and just stand five feet away and let them pass where ever they want, you can expect bad things to happen. That’s our job to fix.”

The Stars are 12-16 (75.0 percent) so far on the penalty kill.

Practice notes

*Vernon Fiddler and Erik Cole did not practice Friday. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said it was a maintenance day for Fiddler. Cole was sick.

*Forward Curtis McKenzie, who was recalled from the Texas Stars earlier in the week, is still waiting to make his NHL debut. Ruff was asked Friday if there is a chance we could see McKenzie Saturday vs. Philadelphia.

“He is somebody I would like to get in based on his preseason,” Ruff said. “That is a good possibility.”

This story was not subject to the 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.

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