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Friday update

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars practiced in Frisco Friday morning, and there was a little more relaxed atmosphere around the rink after the team snapped a four-game losing streak with Thursday’s 3-2 win over Edmonton at American Airlines Center.

“Just to get two points, it’s feeling good in here again. Winning helps,” said defenseman Alex Goligoski. “Definitely some areas we can be better. But coming back here after a bad road trip and getting two points was big. “

Stars coach Lindy Ruff saw Thursday’s win as the team building off its play on the California road trip, where the team showed signs of turning its game around despite not winning. The Stars played a strong third period in an overtime loss to San Jose and then a good game in a 3-2 loss to Los Angeles.

“I tell the team that when you deserve to win you’ll start to win. You’ll have some bad breaks where you’ll lose games, but you’ll win games,” Ruff said. “We had a stretch where we went on the road – the New York trip – we didn’t deserve to win those games. We didn’t do enough things well enough inside those games to win, and we made some big mistakes and gave up some big opportunities. These last six or seven periods we are playing more like we played at the beginning of the year.”

But the Stars still have challenges ahead before the All-Star break. The first one is Saturday with the Colorado Avalanche coming to town. After a slow start to the season, the Avalanche are 15-7-2 since Dec. 1 and have climbed into the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

“They’ve improved. They’ve got their game together a little bit,” Ruff said. “Their goalie has been good, and they’ve been scoring some goals. When they have been winning, they haven’t been giving up a lot. They’ve got themselves in a better place now.”

And the Avalanche have been a handful for the Stars since Ruff became head coach. The Stars are 1-7-3 against Colorado since 2013-14 and have been outscored 43-27.

"It’s our last hurdle we’ve got to get over,” Ruff said. “We played some great games last year and didn’t win, but we’ve got to find a way to win. You can do that different ways. That can be special teams or being sound defensively against their key personnel.”

Colorado won the first meeting between the two teams this season, topping the Stars 6-3 in Denver on Oct. 10.

*Forwards Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza did not practice Friday. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said it was a maintenance day for both players.

*Defenseman Jordie Benn, who is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, worked out off the ice Friday in Frisco. Ruff said he expects Benn to return after the All-Star break.

“Jordie is progressing. I don’t believe we’ll use him before the break,” Ruff said.

*Ruff also said defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who is on a conditioning assignment in the AHL, will return after the break.

“He’ll keep playing,” Ruff said. “He’ll go the full two weeks and keep playing, which I think is really good for him.”

Oleksiak was assigned to Texas on Jan. 16.

Stars defensemen Alex Goligoski launched a shot in Thursday’s game that Edmonton forward Matt Hendricks blocked with a most sensitive area. The only thing saving Hendricks from disaster was his protective cup, which sustained some damage but did its job.

“It was a close call,” Goligoski said. “I skate with him in the summer. He came up to me after the second period and said that happened. Lucky.”

On the damaged he caused to the cup with his shot?

“I didn’t think [I shot it that hard]. I must have just hit the right spot,” Goligoski said. “I was just trying to fire it. There was some chaos in front of the net, and he turned around quick and got in the lane. Good block.”

Hendricks was helped off the ice and then collapsed in the tunnel. But he did return and finished the game thanks to that cup.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Goligoski said. “Good thing he had it on.”

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 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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