After playing eight of their past nine games at home, it's road trip time for the Dallas Stars. The Stars practiced Friday afternoon in Frisco and then departed for St. Louis, where they will kick off a three-game road trip Saturday night. The Stars also play at Los Angeles on Monday and at Anaheim on Tuesday.
"It's a good test for us," said Stars forward Curtis McKenzie. "It's three good teams, three big-bodied teams. You've got to expect a physical war every night. If we can have a good road trip here, it will be huge for our team."
The road has not been kind to the Stars this season. They've won just five of 18 games (5-9-4) and are 2-5-2 in their past nine away from home. The Stars know they are going to have to be better on the road, where they play six of their next eight games, as the season moves along.
"It's just overall improvement. We have to improve in a lot of different areas," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "I think the biggest thing is we've got to score some goals on the road. We've got to get some teams down. Obviously, special teams is a big deal. If you can win that battle on the road, that puts you in a good place.
"I think our road game has been better, but we know we are going to have to improve if we want to make a move up the standings."
The Stars (16-15-8) hope to continue to build on their play over the past month, especially this recent nine-game stretch where they played eight at home. They went 5-2-2 in those nine games and stayed right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
"We've been playing a game that you should be able to win in any building," Ruff said.
As the Stars approach the halfway point of the season, they are in 12th place in the West, but just two points out of the final playoff spot. In the race for the two wild-card spots, there are six teams separated by four points heading into Friday's games.
"We've been moving in the right direction," Ruff said. "We are in a league that is incredibly tight right now. We are in a pack of teams that we are really tight with. With the number of injuries we've had, it has put us in that position. But I think our game is in the right place now to push ahead."
Video: Eaves on the team's mindset
Jamie Benn Update
Stars captain Jamie Benn didn't practice Friday, but he did skate on his own before practice. He will travel with the team on the upcoming road trip. He's not eligible to come off IR until Sunday, so he's definitely out for Saturday's game in St. Louis. It doesn't appear he'll be ready to play Monday in Los Angeles or in Anaheim on Tuesday.
"He is still day to day. Skated today on his own," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "He's obviously going to miss tomorrow, and he'll probably miss the Monday and Tuesday [games]. After that, I would think he would be pretty close to being available. That's all I can give you."
Nemeth to AHL for Conditioning
The Stars sent defenseman Patrik Nemeth to the Texas Stars of the AHL on a conditioning assignment Friday. The move will give Nemeth an opportunity to get some playing time. With the Stars having eight defensemen on the roster, Nemeth's playing time has been limited. He has been a scratch in 16 of the past 19 games.
"Patrik just wants to go play, and I think it is the best thing for him," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Go get some games, get feeling good about your game, play 20-25 minutes a night or whatever they are going to play him down there. I think there is some frustration and I totally understand it. The hard part here is having the eight defensemen and trying to work them in, and I think our game got better when I stopped rotating them in and out."
Friday Practice Lineup
Here's how the Stars lined up in Friday's practice. Forwards Patrick Eaves (maintenance) and Jamie Benn (foot) did not practice.
Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Lauri Korpikoski - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Devin Shore - Cody Eakin - Brett Ritchie
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Jiri Hudler
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jamie Oleksiak/Stephen Johns
Johnny Oduya - Jordie Benn
This story was not subject to 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.