The Dallas Stars practiced on Wednesday before boarding a plane to Arizona where they will take on the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night (8 pm, FSN Southwest, News/Talk 820 WBAP). The Stars defeated Phoenix at home on Monday night by a score of 2-1.
The Stars have matched a club record with seven wins in a row and look to continue the success in the desert. Anaheim and San Jose continue to pile up the points, making the Pacific Division one of the most competitive in the league.
“We need to continue to win, and that’s first and foremost,” said Head Coach Dave Tippett. “We are going to have a very desperate opponent Thursday night, because we won the other night against them and now they have lost four in a row. They are very much in the playoff hunt so the desperation factor is very high.”
Added Mike Modano, “Those guys have been playing well, and their goaltender has been outstanding.”
The Stars will turn right around on Friday to take on the Ducks in Anaheim. The defending champs have won five in a row.
“Anaheim is a team that is coming around, they are getting all their pieces, or ducks, in order,” said Tippett. “They have just come off a long road trip and got some good wins. They feel like their team is rounding into playoff form. It will be a real good test for us.”
It’s a quick two-game trip that is a significant challenge.
“Obviously they are both tough games, and if you watched the game (Monday vs. Phoenix) you could see it was a hard game,” said Stu Barnes. “I think it was a very close game. Their goaltender played very well, and they played very hard, so it’s going be a tough game (Thursday).
“Anaheim is the same way, and they present the same challenge. They are a very good team at both ends of the ice. They are a team that we need to win against but they are a team that is tough to win against. Both of the games on this trip are divisional as well, so it’s important.”
Dallas leads the Pacific Division by four points over Anaheim and five points over San Jose. The Stars have one game in-hand on the Ducks while the Sharks have four games in-hand on Dallas. So there are plenty of points still out there. The Stars hope to continue to grab their fair share of them.
“We’ve been trying to get ourselves in a great position here near the end,” said Modano. “As much as we can separate ourselves from everyone else the better, but we are just taking it trip at a time. Our game has been pretty strong since the All Star Break.”
No losses in almost three weeks? Yes, that would count as “pretty strong.”
“I am very impressed with the commitment that our guys have had,” said Tippett. “Someone asked me a question the other day, ‘How are you guys winning?’ There really isn’t one way or another that we are winning. We have had solid goaltending. Our power play has kicked in, or penalty killing has been excellent, and our total team commitment to working as a group and doing whatever it takes to win has been good.
“This group has certainly come together. The thing that has really been intriguing about this group is that it’s the first time since I’ve been around Dallas where we have had a real mix of young and old, and not old in the derogatory sense. I mean veterans and real young players that have been forced into action because of injuries. It has really become a close team. There are lot of veteran guys that have taken a leadership role with the younger guys, and the young guys have been responding by giving us solid minutes and a chance to win every night. That chemistry is new to the Dallas Stars, and it has been very good for us.”
The Stars have been very successful over the last three months and obviously a seven-game winning streak always helps. One word that keeps coming up is consistency.
“It’s difficult to say what it is, we have been playing a real consistent type of game style,” said Modano. “We’ve been getting contributions from everybody, and our special teams have been near or at the top of the league for the most part of the season. Our goaltending has also been strong, and those areas are going to give you a chance to win game in and game out.”