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Stars Know Battle Has Just Begun

by Dallas Stars Staff / Dallas Stars

  Matt Niskanen (4.11.08)
  Stu Barnes (4.11.08)
  B.J. Crombeen (4.11.08)
  Dave Tippett (4.11.08)

The Dallas Stars, with a 4-0 victory in Game One of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against Anaheim under their belt, got back to work with a full-team practice at Honda Center on Friday afternoon. The club is excited about their solid, all-around group effort in Game One, but realizes the battle has just begun in this seven-game series.

“Our goal is to keep the momentum we gained last night, but we know we’re going to have to battle for every inch,” said Head Coach Dave Tippett.

“Whoever wins Game One in a series knows the other team is going back with a vengeance and you have to accept that challenge. The second game plays out and you find out who keeps the momentum or who can shift it their way. We played solid as a group last night and that’s what we’re going to continue to need.”

Steve Ott put Dallas ahead for good last night with a pretty power play goal midway through the first period, and certainly made his presence felt in many ways. He knows that as well as he and his teammates played in Game One, the Ducks will strike back strong in Game Two.

“They’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, so they know how to battle through adversity,” said Ott. “They are certainly able to regain focus after one loss in a seven-game series. To say that we won by four goals isn’t very indicative of what’s going to happen tomorrow night. It’s great to be up 1-0, but at the same time, we know they will answer the bell. We know they will come back at us with a very strong performance, so we have to raise our level of performance even more.”

Ott’s tally last night was the second of his playoff career – the other was an overtime game-winner in Game Three of the 2004 Western Conference Quarterfinals vs. Colorado – and was one of four Dallas’ goals on the man-advantage. That total is one shy of the franchise record, as the Minnesota North Stars collected five power play goals in a 6-0 win at Chicago on Apr. 12, 1991.

While going 4-for-7 on the power play last night was outstanding, the Stars’ perfect showing on the penalty kill (3-of-3) was equally as important. Tippett stressed on Friday that special teams always find a way to influence a playoff series, especially one as evenly matched as this one between Dallas and Anaheim.

“Goals are going to be so hard to come by, so if you can defend well or find a way to score on the power play, that’s going to be a big advantage,” said Tippett. “We were fortunate to score some power play goals last night, but every game is going to have special teams affect the game in some way, so we need to be strong in those areas.”

“They have very talented players and this is going to be an extremely tight series,” said Ott, echoin his head coach’s sentiments. “All the games could be scoreless until the final minute, or overtime, and I think your 5-on-5 goals are going to hard to come by. So your special teams play is that much more magnified. Our special teams were obviously good last night and it’s going to be key that we take advantage of opportunities and don’t make mistakes to allow them many.”

Also key for the Stars going forward is going to be the play of their youngsters, some of whom skated in their first career Stanley Cup Playoff game last night. Matt Niskanen was part of a solid blue-line group for the Stars, but admitted to facing some tension before the during the contest.

“I definitely had a little bit of nervous energy at first,” said the 20-year-old defenseman. “But after those first few shifts, I felt more comfortable and I think got better as the game went along. It was a tight checking game and a tense atmosphere, so I tried relying as much as possible on the experiences from the regular season.”

Tippett is obviously relying heavily on a number of young players, including winger Loui Eriksson, who collected his first career playoff goal last night, and the bench boss was pleased with the performances he saw in Game One.

“All of our young players faced situational challenges during the regular season,” said Tippett. “When they’re in those positions, they hopefully have some success, which builds that confidence they can do it in the playoffs. All those young guys jumped in last night and were solid throughout. There weren’t a lot of jitters, and they were determined to make sure they did their part to help the team.”

The team earned a valuable victory in Game One last night, but realizes the challenge is only going to get tougher and that the battle just begun.

Dallas will look to add to their 1-0 series lead tomorrow night against the Ducks before returning home for Game Three (Tuesday) and Game Four (Thursday). Good tickets remain for both games, so please call (214) GO-STARS or CLICK HERE to get yours today.

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