If the Dallas Stars are going to claw their way back into a playoff position, they are going to have to be better on the road. The Stars have 29 games left this season, and 17 of them are on the road where they have struggled.
The Stars are 7-13-4 away from home and starting Tuesday in Toronto they play five of their next six on the road. It's another key stretch of games as the Stars try to climb the standings.
"We have to find a way to play a good solid road game," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "It hasn't been our best hockey, but we don't have a choice now. We've got to dig deep and find a way to win these hockey games."
Goals against have been a major issue on the road. The Stars rank 30th in the league, allowing 3.71 goals per game away from home. The penalty kill hasn't helped. The Stars have allowed a league-high 28 power-play goals on the road and rank 30th in road penalty killing.
"The big thing is playing well defensively," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "And staying away from undisciplined play. What hurt us early in the year was taking a lot of penalties on the road. The better you play defensively, the better chance you get."
The Stars defensive game has slipped recently. After a good run of games in December where the Stars allowed 2.08 goals per game over one dozen contests, the Stars have surrendered 3.63 in their past 16 games.
"To me, it's the high-quality opportunities," Ruff said. "We have to bring that number down."
And as the Stars prepare to hit the road, Ruff also stressed managing the game.
"It's going to come down to when we get the lead or have the lead, play better and not give that up," Ruff said. "You can go to certain games where road games should have been ours. We played well enough to win on the road, and we didn't win. As a team, we've put ourselves in a tough spot, but we have the ability to dig ourselves out."
The Stars begin this week five points out of a playoff spot with those 29 games remaining. There's still time, but points are at a premium in every game.
"There's a lot of games, but not a lot of games with the position we are in," said defenseman Dan Hamhuis. "Every game and every point, no matter who we are playing, whether it is home or road, these are points we need."
Homecoming for Shore, Ritchie
Stars forwards Devin Shore and Brett Ritchie, who are both Ontario natives, will get to play their first NHL games in Toronto when the Stars take on the Maple Leafs Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.
"A lot of excitement," Shore said. "I have been in that building a lot of times for concerts, Leafs games, Raptors games. It's just a train ride away from my house, so I know that building really well and I am looking forward to playing a game there for the first time. It should be a lot of fun."
Injury Notes: Oleksiak getting closer
*Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who has missed the past eleven games with a hand injury, went through a second full practice on Monday. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Oleksiak will travel with the team but wasn't sure if he would play on the trip.
"He's progressing. I don't have an answer," Ruff said. "I think he is a possibility for later in the week. That's only a possibility. It just depends on how he progresses."
*There was no update on forward Jason Spezza, who is out with an upper-body injury. Spezza was injured in Thursday's game against Winnipeg and sat out Saturday's game against Chicago. He is on injured reserve.
"When you see him on the ice you know he is getting on that four or five days (away)," Ruff said. "He won't be going on the trip."
*There was nothing new on defenseman Johnny Oduya, who has missed the past eight games with a lower-body injury.
"Therapy and progressing," Ruff said. "There's no timetable on him."
"We know we are at desperation time. We've been there almost all year. It's going to be wee little things that are going to make the difference."
- Stars coach Lindy Ruff
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.