After the Ducks, the Stars will then face Philadelphia on Wednesday and host Nashville two nights later, their first meetings of the year against both the Flyers and Predators.
Following several off days for Christmas, Dallas will return to the ice on Monday at St. Louis before finishing the year with two more home games, including a Dec. 31 date with reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston.
But Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan isn’t too focused on the bigger picture. No, he and his players are instead concentrating on their three games this week as they look to head into a short holiday break on a positive note.
“We are focusing on these next three games before Christmas. That’s our focus,” Gulutzan said. “Then we’re going to take that Christmas break like the whole league does and come back after Christmas on the road. I like starting on the road after Christmas.”
Dallas is certainly hoping for a much better showing in their first home game after a long road trip this time around. On Nov. 15, the Stars were coming off a four-game roadie and lost to Florida in their first game back on home ice, history Gulutzan would rather not see repeat itself on Monday night against the Ducks.
So, he has changed up the practice routine a bit, most notably the Stars will do their Monday morning skate in Frisco instead of the customary practice of being on the pond at the AAC.
“Just trying to change our routine, I changed our practice routine today compared to what we did when we got back from Detroit, just trying to get us back in a little bit mentally into the game,” Gulutzan said. We want to make sure we maximize rest, so we might have that skate up here just so some guys don’t have to deal with the traffic of going down to the American Airlines Center. That will maximize an extra hour of rest for some guys and then we’ll go play that game.”
At the beginning of that recently-concluded road trip, the Stars got a huge boost with the return of defensemen Trevor Daley
and Alex Goligoski
along with captain Brenden Morrow
, all of whom had missed the previous few weeks due to injury.
Daley, Goligoski and Morrow each made their share of contributions during the five-game trek, contributions which definitely did not go unnoticed by their head coach.
“We have our captain back and I thought he played real well,” Gulutzan said. “Having [Goligoski] and [Daley] come back this trip just added a different dimension to our hockey club as far as our speed at the back end and our ability to transition. I think that we became a pacier club because we have two defensemen there that can really move.”
But the Stars figure to be without rookie winger Tomas Vincour
for likely the rest of 2011 and fellow rookie Philip Larsen
could also miss a game or two.
“Vinny’s out, he’ll be out here probably for a week or two. He’s got a little MCL. [Larsen] is day-to-day. He’s got a quad contusion. He’s got a charley horse. We’re not overly worried but he’s going to be out a day or two,” Gulutzan said.
However, on a more positive note, Dallas does figure to get gritty winger Adam Burish
back at some point during the homestand, possibly as soon as Wednesday’s game against the Flyers. The Stars forward feels like he’s ready to roll and called himself 100 percent after practice on Sunday.
“[Burish] claims he’s ready,” Gulutzan said. “He’s got to have a meeting with Paulie [Jerrard] like [Morrow] and every one of our guys do to make sure that they’re ready to go. We’ll make decisions from there.”
Even with the success they just had on the road, Dallas winger Eric Nystrom
agrees it’s definitely great to be back at home.
“That was a good road trip for us. Winning three out of five was pretty solid. Now we have an opportunity to gain some ground at home,” Nystrom said. “Just because you’re playing at home doesn’t mean you’re going to lace ‘em up. We’ve got to be ready to play. These teams are coming in playing road hockey, which is simple and physical. We’ve got to be prepared to do the same. These games are huge for us.”
One lineup decision Gulutzan has made for Monday’s game is that rookie netminder Richard Bachman
will start his fifth straight game between the pipes for the Stars.\
“We have no plan long-term. We’re just going to give him another game. We feel he’s played three strong games and one by his own admission that was just OK,” Gulutzan said. “Still, he made huge saves for us in that game. We’ll give him another game and see where it goes. It’s a good time to see.”