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How can Stars climb out of deepening hole? 'Nip it as soon as possible'

Stuck in a six-game rut, Dallas must quickly turn the page to its tough back-to-back set with the Panthers

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Emotions swirl after a night like Monday.

When the Stars allow a franchise-high 29 shots on goal against in the second period and allow 52 for the game, there is a feeling of embarrassment. That creates all manner of mental gymnastics when you pile that onto a 3-1 loss to Florida that stretches a six-game winless streak (0-3-3).

Should the team be angry because of the poor play?

Should they be patient because they have been through this before?

Should they make significant changes to either the lineup or the tactics?

Video: Bowness on rough second period in loss to Panthers

It's a lot to digest when back-to-back games are waiting Wednesday and Thursday against the Panthers and the NHL just posted your reworked schedule with 43 games in 76 days.

"I think the most important thing is to nip it as soon as possible," said Stars captain Jamie Benn on Tuesday. "We have to find a way to play a smart 60 minutes of hard hockey and grind out a win."

Benn said the team understands the importance of the poor play, and that anger is something that can come out. But he added that the team needs to find a way to dig deep and be better.

Coach Rick Bowness concurred, saying he and the coaching staff have been through myriad emotions and understand that the connection between player and coach is crucial at times like this.

"Players have to take ownership, right? It can't all come from the coaching staff," Bowness said. "We've got to correct some of the tactical things I didn't like, but we have to fix our hunger for 60 minutes. The players have to take ownership of what's going on, and it was good to hear some guys speak up last night."

Video: Klingberg on second period: 'That's not us at all'

Bowness said players like Andrej Sekera demanded better from his teammates after the second period. Benn said he didn't have to speak up, because others were already fired up in the second intermission.

Bowness was asked if the coaches have to "hammer home" points, and he gave a great answer to that question.

"It's not so much hammer home," Bowness said. "The word and the tone is very important of a coach at that particular time. There can't be any panic. We review it: `OK, look at these self-inflicted problems … this is us.' You don't need to be yelling and screaming. The tone is important and the word is important."

The Stars had a good day to reset on Tuesday with a short practice, and they won't have time for a morning skate on Wednesday because of a 5 p.m. local start. Bowness said there also might be some lineup changes, but wouldn't say exactly what.

That could make Wednesday another day that requires a subtle touch by coaches and players.

Video: Comeau says Stars 'couldn't find a way to crawl back'

"I think at some point you have to get upset at what's happening and where we're at," said veteran Andrew Cogliano when asked what role anger can play. "It's not easy to come out of these situations, it's actually really tough. It's a lot of hard work and it's really mental toughness to get out of what's been happening of late. It's mentally being able to commit yourself to doing the right things and focusing on details and really competing and outworking the next team."

So whatever emotion helps you get to that place is the right one, Cogliano said.

Asked if the weeklong work stoppage that postponed four games played a role in making the Stars rusty on Monday, Cogliano disagreed. He said not only does the team not want to accept any excuses, but that the theory doesn't make sense. Florida was playing its third game in four nights and will play five games in seven nights when this series is over.

"Physically, let's be honest, there's teams that have played a lot of hockey," Cogliano said. "I think that was three games in four nights (for Florida), so physically we should be feeling good. We haven't played that much hockey. Yeah, mentally, with all of the unfortunate things that have happened, it's been disrupting for everyone. But you look at the other side of it, and our legs should be there and our focus should be there. No excuses, we should be ready to go."

So mix in gratitude and perspective to the emotional bouillabaisse. In the end, finding that right mix is the key to getting out of this slump and pushing this 5-4-4 team closer to one that can confidently compete for one of the four playoff spots in the Central Division.

Video: Khudobin's 49-save effort not enough in Stars' loss

Cogliano said the Stars have to be able to ride that line of confidence that allows them to make big plays at key moments in the game. By harnessing emotion and riding the wave of chaos that occurs so often in games, Dallas was able to get to the Stanley Cup Final last season. Now, they have to return to that place.

"For the most part, how we play the game is grind teams down and win close games and one-goal games," Cogliano said. "That's what made us successful last year. We committed to that and we outlasted teams mentally and we outlasted teams physically, and that's ultimately why we ended up in the Stanley Cup Finals.

"It's a tough brand to play, but it's very rewarding," he added. "Because when you win, you have a bunch of guys who are warriors. For us, that's what we have to commit to."

And while talking about your feelings is important, there really is only one true answer.

"We don't need lessons, we don't need painful reminders," Bowness said. "We need to play Dallas Stars hockey for 60 minutes."

 

Up next

at Panthers; Wednesday 4 p.m. CT

BB&T Center, Sunrise, Fla.

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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