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Stars Hope Success in Back-to-Backs Continues

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Back-to-backs are a fact of life for any team in the National Hockey League. While playing on consecutive nights can be a bad thing for many clubs, it has been just the opposite so far this year for the Dallas Stars. That’s because Marc Crawford’s club is 6-2 in back-to-backs this year.

The Stars are an impressive 4-0 in the first of two straight games and 2-2 in the final leg. This week, Dallas will play their fifth back-to-back of the season with a visit to Nashville on Tuesday and a home clash with Detroit on Wednesday at the American Airlines Center.

So, why has this team done so well when playing on consecutive nights? Well, that all depends on who you ask.

“Just staying in the groove [is key],” Dallas left winger James Neal said. “When you play the night before, you really don’t worry about anything. You’re done playing one and you get ready for the next one. If you have a little momentum from the first game, you keep it rolling into the second. There’s so little time that you’re only focused on getting the win. As soon as it’s done, you’re focused on the next one and are seeing video on that.”

Stars center Toby Petersen agrees with Neal that sticking to the same winning formula is why his team has been so successful in back-to-backs thus far.

“Those are difficult games to have a lot of success in,” Petersen said. “The only thing I can attribute that to is the style of play we’re playing this year. When we’re having success, we’re keeping things really simple. We’re getting pucks deep and trying to put as much pressure on defenses as we can to cause turnovers. It takes some of the thinking out of the game because it’s so straight line. When you’re on the second game of a back-to-back with fatigue setting in, it’s good to not have to overthink the game. I think that’s been helping us.”

Dallas’ last back-to-back came on December 10 and 11. The sequence opened with a 2-1 win over Carolina at the AAC but ended the following night with a 5-2 loss to the Coyotes on their home ice.

Crawford feels his club’s success in back-to-backs is more indicative of how well his club has performed in every situation this year than anything else.

“Well, we’ve got a good record overall this year. It’s more a case of us playing a good brand of hockey,” the Stars head coach said. “We’ve played in a lot of tight games this year but we’ve been more intelligent in how we played. And that’s allowed us to stick around and when you stick around, you give yourself an opportunity.”

But there are several schools of thought when it comes to playing on consecutive nights. On one hand, if the first game doesn’t go so well, it gives the players a quick chance to make amends by getting back out there the next day.

“That’s the beauty of our game, you don’t sit around a week after a loss and wait for the next game. You let it go and hop onto the next one,” Neal said. “At the same time, you hope to have your best game every night. You’ve just got to do your thing.”

However, there is also the issue of traveling right after one game, which depending on how far the next destination is, can mean getting to that next city early the next morning, which disrupts the players’ normal routine on gameday.

“It’s a combination of things. You’ve given so much in the last 24 hours physically and travel takes a lot out of you,” Petersen said. “The division we’re in, we have a lot of time zone hopping. That can have an effect. If you have trouble sleeping on an airplane, by the time you get to a new city, it can be two or three o’clock in the morning. Lack of sleep can be an issue but that goes for any team.”

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