“Yeah, it’s going to be another good chance for us to go on the road. You look at the Buffalo and Columbus trip, we had some success. So I think we need to get on the road here again and try to duplicate that,” Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said on Monday after an optional practice. “We’ve got another chance to get points coming back home off the road. It’s going to be a tough one but it’s certainly within our range to pick up some points.”
The trip starts with Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens (24-26-10, 58 points), a team who currently sits 13th in the Eastern Conference. Montreal is just 11-13-8 at home this season, and 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. The Habs have also lost in overtime on 10 occasions, tying them for second-most OTLs in the league.
Montreal last played on Sunday, when they fell 3-1 to New Jersey, a game where the Canadiens went nearly 18 minutes without a shot in the opening period. If the Stars are to shake their current malaise and start a push toward a possible playoff berth for the first time in three seasons, there’s no time like the present.
“We’ve got to get some kind of consistency with winning and I think that point is probably right now,” Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski
said after Sunday’s loss to the Predators. “You say it’s the Phoenix game, and after that game, you say, maybe it’s this one, but it’s probably right now. Your desperation has to be as high as it’s going to get.”
The Stars will go with Kari Lehtonen
, who will be making his 10th straight start, in goal against the Habs but on Monday, Gulutzan said his club will go with backup Richard Bachman
on Thursday night in the Windy City.
Bachman’s clearly ready to play for the first time since Feb. 2 at San Jose.
“We need results. We need to get points. Going on the road is sometimes a good thing to get the guys together again, especially for more than just one day,” he said. “Going out there for four days and playing in two of the better places to play in the league, two cities with great fans and good crowds. There should be a lot of energy in the buildings and stuff. I think that will be good to amp us up here and hopefully get some results we need.”
Dallas captain Brenden Morrow
will not travel with the team as he continues to recover from an upper body issue. His return won’t come until the first week of March at the earliest. However, there is much better news on the injury front for 2012 All-Star center Jamie Benn
(knee) and defenseman Sheldon Souray
“He (Benn) is still a couple days away,” Gulutzan said. “I’m glad the injury was stitches and not something worse.”
The Stars head coach offered a similar prognosis on Souray. “Yeah, I think Chicago would be realistic,” Gulutzan said. “I think that’s what we’ll be looking at. Sheldon should be ready in Chicago.”
Souray also chimed in on his current condition: “I feel good. Trying to get a couple of practices in with the guys, get some of the timing back,” he said. “Haven’t been off too long, so hopefully it shouldn’t take too long to get back in the lineup.”
In the Blackhawks (32-21-7, 71 points), the Stars will be facing a team they haven’t seen since early October, when each team won in their own building at the front end of the regular season. Chicago currently sits sixth in the West standings but is just 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. However, the Hawks are an impressive 20-6-4 at United Center, the second most home wins in the NHL. They will head into Thursday’s game just two days removed from hosting the Red Wings on Tuesday night in Chicago.
Defenseman Stephane Robidas
knows that if he and his teammates are going to break through against the Habs, Hawks or even both, their attention to detail needs to be higher than at any other point during the season.
“We just have to give a little more,” Robidas said after Sunday’s loss. “We’re close but close is not good enough. We need results and we just got to find a way to do little things right.”
His veteran teammate who figures to return against Chicago after missing a seventh straight game with a foot injury, agrees.
“Well, it just sounds like kind of a broken record at this point. Every game is like a playoff game for us,” Souray said. “We’re running out of chances of saying we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to do better. At this point, I think it’s a little less talk and a little more action. If we want to get in there, we still control our fate to a certain degree. So we’ve got to win our hockey games, be a little more consistent and see what happens. But it’ll be a bad feeling in here if we don’t start approaching these games like it’s do or die.”