The Dallas Stars were back on the ice this morning in Frisco, but before that there was a meeting. A follow-up meeting to the players-only session after last night’s 3-1 loss to Los Angeles that pushed the team’s winless streak to five games.
“The team talked about it as a group last night and I met with the team again this morning. All these games, we’ve been right there,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We’ve been right there in the third period in most of them. Instead of finding a way to win, we are finding a way to beat ourselves.”
Third periods haven’t been kind to the Stars during their recent skid. They were tied 1-1 going into the third period Tuesday night against the Kings, and were outscored 2-0 over the final 20 minutes. They couldn’t hold a 3-2 lead against the Blues in the third on Oct. 28 and ended up losing in overtime. Against the Islanders on Oct. 25, the game that started the slide, they were tied 4-4 going into the third and were outscored 3-1.
For the season, opponents have outscored the Stars 16-8 in third periods. They are 2-0-2 when leading after two periods and 1-3-1 when tied after two periods.
“It’s been some big turnovers. Recently, it hasn’t been giving up the odd-numbered rushes. It’s been a little bit of puck management for us,” said Ruff. “You have to give the other team some credit. Some of it has been some back pressure. Some of it has been creating enough pressure to put you in a situation where you make a decision for a clearing play that can get picked off. We’ve had a couple of those.”
“We have to start being more comfortable in tight games,” said Stars center Cody Eakin. “When we’re tied going into the third or when we’re up going into the third, we have to play the right way. Guys want to win, and guys are trying hard. We just have to play smart.”
The lapses and mistakes have been magnified with the Stars not getting much offense recently. They’ve scored just three goals in the past three games.
“Play harder, go to the net harder and get some crappy goals and just play the right way,” forward Antoine Roussel said. “We’ve got to be smarter.”
Those offensive struggles – which include power play woes - lead to impatience, which is creating opportunities for the opposition.
“I think when you lose a couple and give a couple away you press a little bit, and I think when that happens we’re pressing for offense. By doing that, we’re giving other teams grade-A scoring chances,” said forward Shawn Horcoff. “That just can’t happen, it should be the opposite. We should be patient, and we should be able to rely and fall back on a team game. We know that we have offense. We have confidence that there are four lines that can go out there and get a goal, and we don’t need to press for that. We need to be able to be a little bit more patient.”
Quotable: Lindy Ruff
“I think the urgency of the players-only meeting last night, the meeting I had today is to say that we are on the radar. We are not flying under the radar anymore. Teams are paying a lot of attention to our best players, just like we paid attention to [Kings center Anze] Kopitar and those guys. That’s where our big boys can’t get frustrated and make the plays that cost us the game. Let’s keep it at 1-1 and wait for that break, and it might be a secondary line that gets that opportunity.”
Practice notes: Eakin, Gonchar hurting
Forward Cody Eakin was not on the ice for Wednesday’s practice, but Stars coach Lindy Ruff indicated that Eakin should be able to play Thursday vs. Nashville.
“He’s a little banged up, but I would anticipate him playing,” Ruff said. “We’ll find out more tomorrow morning.”
Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who returned to the lineup last night after missing the first eleven games due to a fractured ankle, has a new issue.
“He had a little muscle strain, so he sat out today. We’ll see where he is at,” Ruff said.
With Gonchar and Eakin out of the mix, here’s how the Stars lined up in practice.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Patrick Eaves – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Erik Cole – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Kevin Connauton – Jamie Oleksiak
Not skating: Cody Eakin, Sergei Gonchar
Injured: Patrik Nemeth (arm)
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