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Taking Positives Into 2009

by Erin Chenderlin / Dallas Stars

With 2008 quickly coming to an end and 2009 fast approaching in the rearview mirror, the Dallas Stars have many good things to take out of the past few weeks and bring with them into the New Year. After combining for just eight wins in October and November, the team has gone 7-4-1 in December and will close out the month with a New Year’s Eve showdown against the New Jersey Devils.

While December has shown marked improvement since the start of the season, the Stars have excelled even more in the past few weeks, putting together a 4-1-1 record in their last six games, with the sole loss coming at the hands of the NHL’s best San Jose Sharks. Even that game, a 3-1 loss at home on Monday, had many positives to take out of it.

“It was one of those games that we have to realize we played well," Turco said afterward. "You’re not going to win every game, even when you do things well. We stayed in it the whole game and that was a great sign for our team. It's just really unfortunate we couldn't collect any points.”

And points are the name of the game for the Stars right now. Sitting 14th in the Western Conference with 35 points, Dallas is actually just four points out of a playoff berth. The seventh- and eighth-seeded teams, Colorado and Phoenix, currently have 39 points.

“The points are so big right now, so we’ve got to do everything we can to win hockey games,” James Neal said. “The team’s been winning and guys have been stepping up and playing well. It’s such a tight race right now, so points are huge.”

Stephane Robidas echoed Neal’s statement, saying that every game against an opponent ahead of the Stars in the standings is, in essence, a four-point game – a chance to gain two points for your team and take away two possible points from a team ahead of you in the standings.

“We need to look at the big picture, but we’ve got to focus on one game at a time, like Wednesday night’s game,” he said. “All those points are really valuable to us.”

Wednesday night’s match-up against the Devils is sure to be a good one. The Stars have licked their wounds from the 5-0 beating they took at the hands of New Jersey on Oct. 22 at the Prudential Center and are ready to even the score. The Devils are also without their shutdown netminder, Martin Brodeur, out three to four months with a bicep injury.

This is also the Stars’ 11th consecutive season hosting a game on New Year’s Eve, and the previous 10 have been sellouts. The crowd will surely factor in to the equation as the Stars look to come out with everything they have to end 2008 on a high note.

“Going into New Jersey earlier in the season, they beat us up pretty good,” Neal said.

“We could use some revenge here, and we’re at home, so hopefully it’ll be a different game and a different outcome. We’ve got to be consistent here and win some hockey games.”

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