“I believe that you can get going, you can get guys feeding off of good offensive streaks, playing well defensively,” Ruff said. “When you’re losing games or there’s games that all of a sudden you find a way to lose versus you find a way to win, that’s the momentum you want to grab inside a series. They grabbed the momentum in Anaheim. We took it back. Now we got to go try to carry it to Game 5.”
But momentum just doesn’t stay with a team. It is constantly up for grabs, it can shift quickly and the battle to control momentum will start when the puck drops Friday night at Honda Center.
“I think it can also change on a dime. You have to take advantage of it while you have it,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin. “For us, it’s just sticking with our game plan. Buying into our system and in the end, we’re a team that’s successful when we are competing and winning most of our 50-50 battles. We’ve been doing that as of late and we want to continue it on the road as well.”
The Stars head to Anaheim, where they lost the first two games of the series, a different team than the one that started the series that is now all even after four games. A team with a little more experience under its belt. A team that now knows what to expect in an opponent’s building in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And a team that has a better idea of how it needs to play to be successful this time of the year.
“I’d say the first couple games didn’t go the way we wanted, mores so just because of inexperience,” said Stars forward Shawn Horcoff. “I don’t think we knew the type of game we needed to play, and how much the level increases. I think we have a better understanding of that. I look for a better effort [Friday].”
And it’s a team that has tasted success over the last two playoff games, and that’s something that gives them confidence and motivation moving forward.
“We’re a little experienced,” said Seguin. “We’ve felt like what it feels like to lose and I think the most important thing is we felt what it’s like to win a playoff game, especially the guys that haven’t been in the playoffs before. It’s a great feeling. It’s a taste that you like in your mouth. Obviously, our home games are great. Our home crowd is phenomenal. I thought in Game 2 we started playing a lot better Stars hockey on the road. We need to do that again.”
All playoff games are big, but Friday’s game is especially big with the series tied 2-2. It’s now a best-of-three. Friday’s winner moves to within one victory of the taking the series. The loser gets pushed to the brink of elimination.
“It’s a brand new series. Two out of three here,” said Seguin. “For us to be successful and win this series we’re going to have to take one on their ice eventually. We have to take this period by period, game by game and that’s our focus right now.”
“We did what we need to do to hold serve at home and in order for us to win the series we’re going to have to go in there and find a game somehow,” said Horcoff. “It’s a best-of-three series now. They are going to rally around the fact that they have two games at home and we are going to rally around the fact that we just won the last two and we think we have momentum. That’s what Game 5 will tell.”
Dillon, Nemeth game-time decisions Friday
Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon, who has missed the first four games of the playoffs with a lower body injury, took part in the team’s optional skate Thursday morning in Frisco. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Dillon will be a game-time decision for Friday’s game in Anaheim.
Dallas defenseman Patrik Nemeth, who left Wednesday’s game with an upper body injury, was not on the ice for Thursday’s optional skate. Ruff said Nemeth would be a game-time decision as well.
Quotable: Stars forward Shawn Horcoff
“We have a lot of young guys in important roles on this team and guys don’t have a lot of playoff experience. Our motto here isn’t just to come into the playoffs and get our toes wet and save it for next year and years after. The older guys realized that it’s not that easy. There’s a lot of parity in the league and it’s tough to make the playoffs. You have to make the most of all your chances, and that’s what we’re trying to do now. We’re a team that is gaining experience as we go, game by game. We are learning from our mistakes and figuring out what kind of game we need to play in the playoffs.”
Quotable: Stars coach Lindy Ruff
“I keep telling them, you got to have fun. You got to find fun in the game and when I see clips after a goal where guys are just uttering out that barrel ‘yeah,’ whether it’s a Goligoski or a Horcoff, those are the things as a coach that put a smile on your face, that you look for, that show up in the video the next day. Goose and Dales dancing after a goal where it’s contagious, I want to see that. I want to see team unity. I want to see guys celebrating, five guys celebrating. I don’t want four. I don’t want three. I want to see five guys in those piles. Be excited to be playing this time of year, be excited to not be sitting at home watching the first round of the playoffs and then remembering because you don’t want to be sitting outside and I’ve said to them it’s hard. This is hard fun. It’s fun but it’s hard fun and try to wrap your arms around, embrace it and just look forward to that next game.”
Ducks watch: Getzlaf questionable for Friday
The Ducks didn’t practice Thursday, opting for a video session and maintenance day. Captain Ryan Getzlaf, who missed Wednesday’s game with an upper body injury, met with the media to discuss his status, which remains up in the air for Friday’s Game 5.
“I’m not really going to discuss what exactly is going on. That’s what we’ve always done here during the playoffs. I wish I could give you insight on it, but I’m just not allowed to,” Getzlaf said. “I do know that it’s questionable for tomorrow. We’re going through different things today and doing our process to get ready for tomorrow. It’s just a matter of rallying around each other right now and making sure we put our best foot forward.”
Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau had this to say about Getzlaf: He’s hoping to play, but that doesn’t guarantee that he’s going to play. It’s a day-to-day thing.”
Forward Matt Beleskey, who has missed the last three games of the series with a lower body injury, is doubtful for Friday, but could play by Sunday.
“He’s getting better,” said Boudreau. “I’d venture to guess he’s not probable tomorrow, but we’re looking at Sunday for him being able to play.”
There was no indication if the Ducks might make a goaltending change for Friday’s game. Rookie Frederick Andersen, who started the first four games of the series, was pulled in the third period Wednesday night and replaced by veteran Jonas Hiller.
Boudreau wasn’t tipping his hand about the goaltending for Friday night, but he did say it was good for Hiller to see some action in Wednesday’s game.
“It was important he played,” Boudreau told the Ducks official site. “Whether he’s going to start tomorrow, it was important that he’s already seen playoff ice, and not coming in blind.”
(Series tied 2-2)
Game 1: Wed, April 16, Dallas at Anaheim: Ducks 4, Stars 3
Game 2: Fri, April 18, Dallas at Anaheim: Ducks 3, Stars 2
Game 3: Mon, April 21, Anaheim at Dallas: Stars 3, Ducks 0
Game 4: Wed, April 23, Anaheim at Dallas: Stars 4, Ducks 2
Game 5: Fri, April 25, Dallas at Anaheim, 9:30 p.m., Fox Sports Southwest/NBC Sports Network/TSN
Game 6: Sun, April 27, Anaheim at Dallas, 7:00 p.m., Fox Sports Southwest/NBC Sports Network/TSN2
*Game7: Tue, April 29, Dallas at Anaheim, TBD, Fox Sports Southwest/TSN
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.