Jockeying for playoff spots normally doesn’t begin until mid- to late-February. The Stars, however, have been in “playoff hockey” mode since December, as they fought to climb out of the Western Conference cellar. Will they be able to keep up this high level of intensity for the remainder of the season?
“Well, we don’t have a playoff spot until the season’s over, and knowing that is our motivation to keep our energy up and keep playing the way we’re playing,” center Mike Ribeiro
said. “There are no guarantees and it’s going to be a battle until the end of the year. It’s going to come down to how we prepare ourselves and how we play every night.”
Ribeiro’s teammates echoed his thoughts, saying that while it’s a difficult task to keep a playoff mindset for more than half the season, it’s going to be necessary if Dallas hopes to find itself in the postseason come April.
“That’s what good teams have to do throughout the season,” center Brian Sutherby said. “If we want to make the playoffs we have to keep playing the same way and playing at a high level.”
The team has definitely come together in recent games, and the hard work and contributions from everyone on the ice is showing on the scoreboard. In Dallas’ 7-3 win over Columbus on Saturday, six different skaters scored goals for the Stars, including Sutherby and defenseman Andrew Hutchinson, whose goals were their first as Dallas Stars. The Stars went 9-11-4 through their first 24 games, and have gone 14-7-3 in the next 24, including six wins in the last eight games and a season-high four-game win streak. The last time the Stars put four wins together was Feb. 22-28, 2008.
“We’ve been playing differently, and playing better as a team, and I think it shows on the ice” Ribeiro said. “We’re playing hard right now, and we’ve got a long stretch of games at home this month, and we need to be focused for that.”
The Stars host 10 of their 13 games in February, including a four-game homestand at the start of the month and a season-long six-game stand to close it out. Of the 13 games, 12 are against Western Conference teams and provide an opportunity to gain much-needed ground on close opponents.
“We’ve been playing great at home and I feel like we have an edge there,” Turco said of their February schedule. “It would be great to get some separation from the pack now that we’re in the playoff race and never relinquish it.”Barch Feeling Fine After High Stick
It was a scary sight Thursday night, as right wing Krys Barch took a high-stick from Detroit’s Chris Chelios square in the mouth just about halfway through the first period. Barch went down hard and came up bleeding. A camera shot of him smiling on the bench as he headed to the dressing room looked more like a scene from a horror flick rather than a hockey game, as he smiled a bloody, tooth-mangled grin.
“It was a little scary, that’s for sure,” Barch said of the TV shot, which he saw later. The hit, he said, felt a little like his whole mouth was exploding. Chelios apologized immediately as soon as the whistle was blown.
Amazingly, after 10-12 shots of numbing medication in his mouth (“Like the stuff you get at the dentist when you go in for a cavity,” he said), Barch was back out on the bench, ready to play the second period. He played 5:35 during the Detroit game, just about one minute under his 6:31 average.
“Any one of us in this dressing room … if something like that happens, you want to get back out there and play,” he said. “I think that’s just the nature of the game.”
Barch said all the numbing medication did its job, and he really couldn’t feel too much pain. He hasn’t taken any pain medication since the hit, and said the pain actually has been manageable.
“It’s really just about chewing more with you back molars,” he said with a slight lisp, and laughed.
While the team flew on Thursday night to Columbus, Barch stayed in Detroit with associate athletic trainer Craig Lowry. He had five root canals Thursday night after the game, and flew to Columbus on Friday to join his team. He played more than 10 minutes against the Blue Jackets, and was plus-one. He is one of five players to have played in all 48 games so far this season, and a high-stick to the mouth wasn’t going to keep him from missing one.
For now, Barch said it looks like he will lose all five of the bottom teeth that were hit, and he’ll have a better idea on the top three after Monday’s consultation with the oral surgeon. Had he not been wearing a mouth guard, the damage would have been much worse.
“All you kids out there, wear mouth guards!” he stressed. “Had I not been wearing one, I probably could have lost 10 teeth on the top alone.”