What a huge difference a week truly makes. It was almost one week ago that the Dallas Stars were coming off a tough 4-1 defeat at the hands of Pacific Division rival San Jose, a game that increased the Stars' losing streak to five games.
Of course, Glen Gulutzan's club ended that skein on Monday with a resounding 4-1 win over Edmonton and then followed that up two nights later with a 3-2 win over a team they had yet to beat this year in the Los Angeles Kings.
And the Stars ended their four-game homestand on Friday night with a 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto, giving them five of six points in their three home games for the week and five of eight overall for the entire four-game run. Despite the loss to the Maple Leafs, Gulutzan and company were also treated on Friday night to something they had yet to see this year, a sellout crowd at American Airlines Center.
There were a number of encouraging things to take from the homestand, especially the performance of the Stars' third and fourth lines throughout the run of three straight at home. In fact, in the loss to the Leafs, all three Dallas goals came from the checking line-two from Eric Nystrom and the other from Radek Dvorak.
"I don't know what you can say about that line. They bring it every night," Gulutzan said after the loss to Toronto. "They have passion, they skate and they work. They're all in every night and they're a real effective group for us and they help us a ton. Dvorak's goal was a big goal for us."
But right after that loss to the Leafs, Dallas hopped a plane to Phoenix where they will face Dave Tippett's Coyotes tonight in the final game of a back-to-back. However, at least tonight's divisional tilt will be a fair fight as the Coyotes also played last night, getting blanked by Vancouver 5-0 in Glendale but they do have the advantage of playing their last game at home instead of having to travel like the Stars.
And Gully and his crew already have a pair of wins over Phoenix this year, both coming in overtime. The first came on Oct. 10 in Dallas, a 2-1 decision for the Stars on Columbus Day in front of the smallest crowd of the year as the Rangers were hosting a playoff game at the same time. These two clubs squared off once again in Glendale 15 days later and once again, it was the Stars who prevailed, leaving the Grand Canyon State with a 3-2 win in the extra frame.
Phoenix currently sits at 11-7-3 with 25 points, making them fourth in the Pacific and ninth in the overall standings in the Western Conference. The Coyotes are 5-4-2 at home so far this year but are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
Once Saturday's game is in the books, the Stars will make another short flight, this time to Denver on Sunday in advance of a Monday night clash with the Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. These teams have split their two meetings so far this year with Dallas winning a wild 7-6 contest in early November and the Avs blanking the Stars in the return meeting just over a week ago at the Pepsi Center, giving them a fourth straight loss.
However, after a quick start, Joe Sacco's team has recently hit the skids, going just 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. The Avs are currently 9-12-1 with 19 points and if there is a silver lining for the Stars heading into this one, it's that Colorado has been absolutely abysmal in their own barn so far this year, with a home record of just 3-8-0.
Of course, one of those wins came against Dallas about a week ago, but the Stars have played pretty well away from the AAC so far this year. But if there is one area of concern heading into this short, two-game road trip and into December, it's that the Dallas power play has gone completely dark over the last five games as they are a paltry 1-for-16 with the extra attacker dating back to a 3-2 loss at Detroit on November 12.
In fact, the Stars haven't converted a power play in their last 15 attempts, including an 0-for-12 performance during their last four games at home. One big reason for the lack of production has been the loss of defenseman Alex Goligoski, who suffered a hand injury at Pittsburgh and figures to miss at least a few more weeks.
Goligoski or "Goose" as he is known, served as the point man on the power play and it's clear there is something missing when he's not out there running the show. That lack of production remains an ongoing concern for the Stars head coach and an issue he continues to address heading forward.
"That is probably the key in my mind. We needed a power play goal, especially late against Toronto," Gulutzan said. "We could have had that game maybe in the third with that late power play. We mixed things around a little bit with some of the injuries we've had. It's been a little anemic of late and we're not generating enough shots. We put some things together to get shots. We have to go back to simplicity-net presence, shoot from the blue line, shoot from the half wall and make sure we're putting pucks on the net. We're just not doing that right now."