Next up for the Dallas Stars is a key stretch of four games against three Central Division foes.
The stretch opens with a three-game road trip. The Stars play at Nashville (Thursday), Winnipeg (Saturday) and Colorado (Monday). Then they play Colorado again Tuesday at American Airlines Center, making it four games in six days against divisional foes.
“It’s a big four games,” said Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon. “We’ve been playing well on the road, we want to keep that streak going and we’ve got to understand the meaning of these games.”
The Stars are two points ahead of Nashville and one point ahead of Winnipeg in the standings. They are seven behind Colorado, which currently holds the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“It’s big for us. We are still a lot of points out of a playoff spot even though we have a good record,” said Stars forward Antoine Roussel. “Everyone game is important, but those [divisional] games are big. They are four-point games. The next four are against division rivals, so we need to bear down. It’s one game at a time and hopefully we’ll make good.”
Although the Stars are seven points out of a playoff spot, they still have games in hand on some of the teams they are chasing. Minnesota and Vancouver are both eight points ahead of the Stars, but the Stars have three games in hand on the Wild and four games in hand on the Canucks. With several games in a short span, the Stars have a chance to pull a little closer. The back-to-back with Colorado is a huge chance to gain ground.
“We’re playing teams that if we want to move up and if we want to close the gap with some of our games in hand, we’ve got to be able to win these games,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
Despite a stretch that has seen them go 9-4-3 over their last 16 games, the Stars haven’t gained any ground in the playoff race. They were six points out of a spot before that stretch and now the gap is seven.
“It’s crazy. You look at how every team is getting points every night, whether they are taking it to overtime or winning it in regulation with a late goal,” said Dillon. “We just have to understand that we have to win and take care of ourselves. We don’t want to have to rely on someone else to help us with our fate. We want to be able to control our destiny.”
Notes: Fiddler improving, could play on trip
Stars center Vernon Fiddler, who missed Tuesday’s game with an upper body injury, skated prior to Wednesday’s practice. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Fiddler could play on the upcoming road trip.
“Vern is feeling a lot better,” said Ruff. “He skated this morning and there’s a chance he could play at the tail end of this trip.”
Ruff said he also could get veteran defenseman Aaron Rome into the lineup for the first time this season. Rome missed the start of the season due to offseason hip surgeries and then had another setback recently.
“There’s a chance we’ll take a look at him,” said Ruff. “He’s practiced well and with some of the youth on our defense and the lack of games played, there might be an opportunity for him to step in and see if he can make a difference.”
Wednesday’s practice lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Erik Cole – Cody Eakin – Alex Chiasson
Ray Whitney – Shawn Horcoff – Rich Peverley
Antoine Roussel – Dustin Jeffrey –Ryan Garbutt
Alex Goligoski – Brenden Dillon
Jordie Benn –Sergei Gonchar
Kevin Connauton – Jamie Oleksiak
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.