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Stars Must Band Together

by Erin Chenderlin / Dallas Stars

There’s no denying the Stars are in a difficult spot. The team has struggled to get going, and now finds itself last in the Pacific Division with a 5-8-3 record. Things need to change, and the team needs to right the ship. The onus is on each and every player to work for the man skating next to him. The team has a crucial opportunity Saturday night to earn two, much-needed divisional points against the Phoenix Coyotes.

“Everyone’s feeling the pressure,” captain Brenden Morrow said. “Everyone needs to look at themselves, and if you think you’re giving 100 percent, you’re not and you’re fooling yourself if you think you are. Until everyone is under that same belief, we’re going to keep playing ourselves into this hole.”

While the wins have not been coming, the losses have been sprinkled with small positives. Goaltender Marty Turco, who through his first 10 games was 3-5-2 with a league-worst 4.34 goals-against average and a .842 save percentage, has since posted a 1-2-1 record, but with a much more respectable 2.22 goals-against and a .924 save percentage. Prior to the Anaheim game Nov. 7, the team was eight-for-58 on the power play (13.1 percent). Since that game, the team has gone four-for-17, or 23.5 percent.

All is definitely not lost however, and the Stars acutally sit just two wins out of a playoff spot. Other components are improving, as well, as the Stars saw the return of defenseman Sergei Zubov for the Anaheim victory and veteran right wing Jere Lehtinen four days later in Los Angeles. Zubov already has two assists and leads the team, averaging 24:19 minutes per game. Lehtinen scored a goal his first game back with the Stars.

“If you look at the three-game trip out West, we played some pretty good hockey,” said assistant coach Stu Barnes. “We beat Anaheim, we’re in that San Jose game right until the very end and even the L.A. game, we had some bumps here or there but we had a chance to win it late.”

Dallas earned three points in that three-game swing, not enough to keep them from the Pacific Division cellar. In order to pull out a win and take home two points from Phoenix, defenseman Stephane Robidas said the game plan is simple: get back to basics and play well defensively.

“Marty’s been playing really well lately, and we’ve got to help him a little more,” he said. “We gave up way too many scoring chances and odd-man rushes last game.”

More importantly, the Stars need to play together, as a team. They need to work together, as a team. They need to dig, grind and battle together.

As a team.

“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves because no one is going to feel sorry for us,” Robidas said. “Until we realize that we’ve got to work, play within the system and play as a team, it’s not going to happen.”

The Stars face a tough challenge in working themselves out of this rut. While not only facing an opponent across the ice each night, the team is battling against itself. The problems, Morrow said, are 99 percent in their own heads. They’re worrying too much about what the other team is doing, rather than focusing on their own game. Teammates are not trusting other teammates, which leads to lapses in coverage on the ice. While Morrow said everyone seems to be doing it in the best interest of the team, it’s actually hurting everyone.

“Everyone’s feeling the pressure,” Morrow said. “The quickest fix is just to get on a roll and start winning. We’ve got to get things going in the right direction, and Saturday has to be that start for us.”
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