The Dallas Stars practiced before a good crowd at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Euless Sunday morning. It was the Stars’ final practice before the All-Star break. They’ll play their final game before the break Monday when they take on Calgary at American Airlines Center.
The Stars will look to enter the break on a high note after what has been a rough month of January. They are 2-6-2 this month including a 1-4-1 record over the past six games. The Stars are averaging just 2.2 goals per game over the past ten, and they’ve allowed 3.4 per game. Special teams haven’t helped. The power play has struggled, and so has the penalty kill.
“When we haven’t competed defensively, we haven’t won games,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We need more guys to dig in. It might take a 1-0, 2-1 game. I know when our top guys are struggling to get on the board it is hard to win games.”
But Ruff said he has seen some progress over the past few games. The Stars had a strong game in a 3-2 loss to Los Angeles Tuesday, played well in a 3-2 win over Edmonton on Thursday and then dominated play in Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to Colorado, outshooting the Avalanche 43-15 and holding a 106-32 advantage in attempted shots. But mistakes proved costly in the losses.
“I tell the team you’ll win when you deserve to win,” Ruff said. “These last three or four games it is a lot closer to the way we were playing [earlier in the season], tighter way of playing. Although last night was the same nemesis that got us last year on home ice, where we got careless and didn’t defend. We got loose against the other team when we were on the power play. It was probably a game that was going to be 1-0 or 1-1 if we don’t do that.”
Monday’s game against Calgary will be another challenge for the Stars. The Flames have won the first two meetings this season, rallying from a 3-0 deficit in the third period to win 4-3 in a shootout in Calgary and then winning 3-1 in Dallas.
“They are very similar to Colorado,” Ruff said. “We can dominate the shot clock and the possession time, but we’ve got to be careful giving up the rush opportunities, the same rush opportunities we gave up in Calgary. They’ve got some mobile defensemen that are always involved in the play, and that’s typically the high-end chances they get.”
It’s a big game for the Stars, who would feel a lot better about things going into the break with a win. And the two points would help in a tight race at the top of the Central Division.
“It’s going to be huge for us. It’s a home game, too,” said defenseman John Klingberg. “We need all those points now. Chicago is in front of us now, and we want to keep playing good here, so it’s going to be a big game.”
Said forward Patrick Sharp: “Points are valuable at all times of the year, especially now. We’ve got to find a way to play better on home ice and generate some offense. We need to continue to limit the chances against. We haven’t done that in the last couple of games. It’s a big game for us coming up.”
*Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza did not practice Sunday. Coach Lindy Ruff said it was a maintenance day for all three players.
*Ruff said that defenseman Jordie Benn, who is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, skated on his own in Frisco Sunday. Benn is expected to return after the All-Star break.
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.