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Stars look to get back on track during road trip

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

After a five-day break between games, the Dallas Stars will get back at it when they open a three-game road trip at Anaheim Friday.

“It was nice to get a couple days off to rest up. We played a lot of hockey in a short amount of time,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We’ve had a couple of good practices; we are looking forward to getting on the road and starting a big road trip.”

Before their break, the Stars played nine games in 15 days, and it was a rough stretch. The Stars went 3-4-2 including losses in four of their last five games (1-3-1). Their play on the road was particularly rough. They lost five straight, going 0-3-2 and surrendered six goals in each of the three regulation losses.

“I think it was just getting away from our game,” Benn said. “Played some pretty good games at home here, all against good teams. Then we go on the road and we kind of lose that defensive mentality. Giving up six a night is obviously not good, so we’ve got to get back to really paying attention to the details in the defensive zone, and I think that’s imperative.”

The Stars are 1-4-3 in their past eight road games and the team’s play away from home was a focus when the team returned to practices earlier this week. The last road trip – three games against the New York City area teams – produced three losses, the Stars’ first losing streak of the season. The Stars gave up 12 goals over the final two games.

“Defending, for me it’s defending,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We haven’t defended well enough, disappointed in our defending, and we talked about that [Tuesday] morning. We’ve got to get back [to that]. We’ve been a good road team, were a good road team last year. Started out the year as a really good road team and we’ve got away from the play that makes us effective on the road.”

The Stars will take on the Ducks (Friday), Sharks (Saturday) and Kings (Tuesday) during this trip. It’s a key three-game set as the Stars try to get their game back on track.

“We just need to get back to how we usually play,” said defenseman Jordie Benn. “Every team is going to have its ups and downs. It’s the team that can get out of that down the fastest that can succeed. Hopefully, we get out on the road and put some good hockey together and come back with some points.”

Said Ruff: “We’ve got to clean up our game. Again, it starts for me with playing well defensively and having good special teams on the road. That’s the biggest thing for me – play well defensively and win that battle of special teams and the points will take care of themselves.”

The Stars will open their road trip against the Anaheim Ducks, who are coming off a 4-1 win over Ottawa on Wednesday. The Ducks have struggled to score this season, averaging 1.90 goals per game and ranking last in the league. But they have allowed just 14 goals over their past nine games and rank fifth in the league in goals against (2.33) and have the league’s top-ranked penalty kill (89.8 percent).

“I think they are trying to play well away from the puck, play well defensively,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “They’ve won a lot of games really tight. For the most part, they haven’t scored a lot of goals, but their penalty killing has been excellent. They went on a road trip and won a couple of games 1-0, so I think we are going to have to be ready to play a tight game and win a tight game.”

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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