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Stars Hit Road for Western Canada Swing

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Fresh off sweeping a three-game homestand that concluded with an impressive 2-1 win over Los Angeles on Monday and a four-game winning streak, the Stars (18-13-5, 61 points) now hit the road for a three-game swing through Western Canada to face Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

The trip starts on Thursday night with a visit to Edmonton, continues on Friday night in Calgary before Dallas closes out the quick road trip on Monday night at current Western Conference-leading Vancouver.

“Well, the Canadian road trip is always a good one for the Stars. The Stars have fared pretty well there,” head coach Marc Crawford said.

Dallas is 6-0-1 in January and an impressive 20-6-5 in their last 31 games, the third-best mark in the entire NHL over that span.

“We’re confident,” Stars center Brad Richards, who leads the team with 54 points, said.
“We’re going to build on what we’re doing and use it as confidence. These are three games that are going to be tough, always in hostile environments. You’ve got to be careful not to pat yourself on the back and keep going.”

Tomorrow night’s clash with the Oilers will be the second time in less than two weeks that these clubs meet. On January 11, the Stars beat them 3-2 at the American Airlines Center, a game where they blew a two-goal lead before a third-period blast by James Neal bailed them out and secured two points in what was far from their best effort of the year.

So, atoning for that performance is definitely a top priority for the current Pacific Division leaders.

“Edmonton outshot us badly in here and we needed a great goaltending performance from Kari Lehtonen to beat them. What we talked about with our players today is that has got to be our focus. We’ve got to be much more focused to play,” Crawford said. “They’re a speedy team and there are no easy games.”

Should things go well at Rexall Place, the Stars won’t have much time to enjoy it since they will then venture across Alberta to Calgary, a team that beat them 3-2 in a shootout just before Christmas.

“Calgary is playing much better of late. They’re one of the hotter teams in the league right now,” Crawford said. “They’re making their push right now, so that will be a spirited affair.”

However, after facing the Flames at the Saddledome, the schedule lets up a bit for the Stars. They won’t complete the three-game road swing until Monday. The Canucks, on the other hand, will host Calgary on Saturday night while Dallas waits for them in Vancouver.

The Canucks are another team that has recently gotten the better of Crawford’s club, winning 4-1 at the AAC on New Year’s Eve. The story of that game was the Vancouver power play, which went 3-for-6 in that win and built a 4-0 lead before Brenden Morrow’s power play tally in the third broke the shutout.

“They are the top team in the league. They beat us with the power play last game. So we want to try and solve that,” Crawford said. “You want to play well against the top teams. That’s always a measuring stick game. It comes after two days off. It’ll be exciting.”

After this road trip, the Stars will have just one game remaining, a home date with the same Oilers next Wednesday, before the all-star break. One veteran knows how critical it is to finish that mythical first half of the season on a nice roll.

“It’s real important going into the all-star break to keep this momentum going, especially since the team has played well of late and piled up some wins,” Dallas right winger Jamie Langenbrunner said. “Yet teams are right on our heels there in the division. These points are huge. We’ve got eight points before the break and it’s important to try to get as many as possible."

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