After five days between games and four straight days of practice, the Dallas Stars are ready to get back to playing.
“I said to somebody, ‘I’m ready to get the season started again,’” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “It feels like we’ve gone through training camp, played some games and started another training camp and now we’re going to play. It’s going to be nice to get going.”
And they’ll get things rolling again with their first road trip of the season.
“A lot of the boys are talking about getting back on the road again,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. “A lot of us haven’t been on the road together or haven’t spent the night in the hotel in a while. I think we are just excited to get on the road.”
The Stars’ trip will take them to Winnipeg, Minnesota and Colorado. Ruff sees it as more than just the first road trip of the season.
“It adds up to a lot more than you think. You can set the tone early. You can get a feel for a team early,” Ruff said. “We want to be a team that can go on the road and just play the same way shift after shift and have a team on the road say, ‘Boy, those guys are tough to play against.’ When you get to that point, you can be a real good road team.”
The trip will be the Stars’ first foray into the Central Division, their new home in the realigned NHL.
“It’s a pretty strong division,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “You look at Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Winnipeg, Minnesota and even Colorado is off to a great start.”
“We’ve got the Cup champs (Chicago) and supposedly the team to beat is St. Louis. They are a good team, too,” said Daley. “It’s going to be a tough division. Colorado is off to a great start. It’s going to be a challenge.”
A little less challenging will be the travel within the division now that the Stars are no longer in the Pacific and will have fewer games against the California teams. There will be fewer long trips and fewer lost days because of the travel. Five of their six division foes are in the Central Time Zone and Colorado is in the Mountain Time Zone.
“The traveling is where the new division is really going to help,” said Robidas. “Hopefully it can help us get better quality of sleep and less traveling. I think that could make a difference in the long run.”
In the short term, they are just glad there are some games on the schedule again. The NHL season is a week-and-a-half old and the Stars have played only two games. Now they’ll get rolling a bit, playing six games over the next ten days.
“Now we get to get up and running, play on a consistent basis,” said Ruff. “We get to try to find our groove, find our game and really find out about each other as a team.”
The Stars will play their first set of back-to-back games when they play at Winnipeg on Friday and then at Minnesota on Saturday.
“We’re well-rested and ready for a back-to-back,” said Daley. “The schedule worked out well for us. We’re just ready to get back on the ice and start playing again. I think it’s good to have a back-to-back.”
The Stars have a total of 13 back-to-backs this season. Of the 26 games involved, 20 of them will be played on the road.
“If you can balance your ice time in a back-to-back it makes for a better situation, where you don’t have to lean on one line because that team can usually take that away from you,” said Ruff. “If our depth – and I liked the way our lines played in game two – that’s a situation that can make you a real good road team.”
When the Stars play Winnipeg Friday, the Jets will be on the second night of a back-to-back. The Jets play at Minnesota on Thursday. The Wild will have had a day between games when the Stars play them on Saturday.
“The second one is always tougher, but in the same sense we are playing our first game on the road and the team we are playing is playing a back-to-back. By the end of the year all that evens out,” said Ruff.
Quotable: Ray Whitney on the road trip and bonding
“Well, there’s not a lot of time to bond when you’ve got back-to-back games on the road to start. But we’ve got a day off in Colorado later after that. I don’t know if you want to say there’s too much bonding. You’ve got guys going and doing their own things. Young guys do one thing and old guys do another, so you don’t have 23 guys hanging around and moving from place to place. But when you’re with each other for six days straight, you either learn to like each other or dislike each other. It’s an opportunity to get out early on the road for a fairly long trip to determine whether we really like each other or not. But it’ll be good. Get some time off in Denver, different things guys can do, we try to bring some guys with us, some new guys, when we do some different things. The Broncos are playing. That’s always an option if we’re up to it or feel up to it. Road trips, they’re taxing. But like I said, it is a good opportunity to get to know your teammates a little bit better.”
Stars’ road trip
Friday: At Winnipeg, 7 p.m.
Saturday: At Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Tuesday: At Colorado, 8 p.m.
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge