Posted March 01, 2012 on
AP on Fox
The Dallas Stars feel good about themselves after using February to make a push for the postseason. They also know that all they have accomplished is to make their next stretch of games decisive.
The Stars begin a three-game trip Friday night as they look to improve to 3-0-0 this season against the Edmonton Oilers.
Dallas (33-26-5) saw its four-game win streak end with Wednesday's 4-3 shootout loss to Pittsburgh. The contest capped an 8-5-3 month that has the Stars among the teams battling for one of the Western Conference's final playoff spots.
"This is going to be a grind," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "If we think there aren't going to be ups and downs in the next 18 games, then we're kidding ourselves. When you look back in retrospect, it was a good month for us."
The Stars are getting healthier, with All-Star winger Jamie Benn returning Wednesday from a six-game absence while recovering from a thigh injury. Benn scored his 18th goal.
"The guys are learning how to win and I think we're coming together as a group and they were playing great the last few games before I came back," Benn said.
Dallas will visit Edmonton (25-32-6) for the first time after two 4-1 home victories over the Oilers. This trip gets harder when the Stars head to Calgary and Vancouver, but they aren't about to overlook this stop.
"We've gotta get some points," Gulutzan said. "We've got a big game Friday. We're not looking too far ahead, game by game here."
Gulutzan has indicated that Kari Lehtonen will get his 18th start in the last 20 games. Lehtonen posted a 2.10 goals-against average over the last month and is 5-1-0 with a 2.17 GAA against the Oilers in six starts with Dallas.
The Oilers have showed some signs of improvement, as they're six points shy of their league-worst totals of 62 the past two seasons.
Edmonton, though, is still far away from competing with elite teams. The Oilers fell behind by three goals and never recovered in Wednesday's 5-2 home loss to St. Louis.
"There are two levels of teams out there, St. Louis and then there is us," coach Tom Renney said.
Renney hinted there would be lineup changes Friday.
"I think that for sure we'll probably get (Andy) Sutton back in," Renney said. "I think in terms of the line makeups, because we only have 12 forwards, we'll move some people around."
Nikolai Khabibulin will start in goal after being cleared to return after missing five games with a groin injury.
"Felt really good today, didn't have any issues so I think I felt as close to 100 percent as could be," Khabibulin said after Thursday's practice.
Dallas has killed 26 of 28 penalties in its last eight games and all eight this season against Edmonton, which is among the NHL leaders with a 21.7 power-play percentage.
Center Mike Ribeiro has 11 points in an eight-game run, the longest by a Star this season. It's his best since an 11-game streak Dec. 29, 2010-Jan. 21, 2011.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow has resumed skating and is nearing a return from neck and back injuries."This is the first skate in about three weeks, and so far, no pain. I guess that's a good sign," Morrow said Thursday.Morrow has missed 14 games and hasn't played since Feb. 2 at San Jose. The 33-year-old said he's "nowhere near game shape" and...
Another night, another controversy in the NHL. On Wednesday night in Dallas, Eric Nystrom took out Kris Letang with what appeared to be a hit the head. Nystrom received a minor for roughing on the play, which was popularly argued about by Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick. Check out the hit for yourself below, and leave your thoughts on the play in the comments section.
Compared to how poor Dallas played in January, the Stars played much better hockey this month. They got off to a shaky start, alternating wins and losses before going on a show losing streak. However, Dallas rediscovered its game and fired off five wins in a row near the end of the month. That win streak tied their longest of the season and puts Dallas back into a playoff spot...
Apart from the fact that the Dallas Stars got only point out of last night's game against the Penguins, there was a lot to like about their performance. The Stars brought a lot of energy and intensity to the game and played very well on the whole in a game that had a playoff-like feel to it. If Dallas can bring a similar effort most nights down the stretch, the lost point last...
Dallas 3 - Pittsburgh 4
Man, that was a lot of fun wasn't it? I don't even mind that the Stars lost. Playoff atmosphere hockey in what had to have been the most exciting game of the year for the Stars. This past week of hockey has been as fun as any this season. Dallas took everything, EVERYTHING, that the Penguins threw at them and gave it right back. Dallas didn...
DALLAS (AP) -- Pascal Dupuis converted in the fourth round of the shootout and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight, 4-3 over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night.
Dupuis fired past Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen and Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury denied Michael Ryder's attempt to clinch the extra point.
James Neal and Chris Kunitz also scored in the shootout...
According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, Eric Nystrom will face no discipline for his hit on Kris Letang.
Still no word on Letang's status.
from Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun, It’s the ’99 Dallas Stars all over again, only they’ve moved to Missouri.
Hitch in St. Louis, Darryl Sutter in L.A., throw in Phoenix’s Dave Tippett for good measure ... they’re dragging hockey back to the dead-puck era. Suffocating defence, unadventurous offence, happy to win 1-0.
Only one problem, Hitchcock said Thursday. It’s just...
Kris Letang's absence could put dent in power-play productivity
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Question of the Day:
Will the NHL fine and/or suspender Dallas defender, Eric Nystrom, for his check of Kris Letang on Wednesday? How much/how long?
I couldnât find any previous Eric Nystrom suspensions. He did break the leg of Edmonton defender, Taylor Fedun...
Stars captain Brenden Morrow, who has missed the last 14 games with neck and back issues, said he's "progressing pretty good" after resuming skating Thursday.
PREVIEW 8:30 AM CST
One thing is for certain during the NHL stretch drive and playoffs: Things only get tougher as you move along. They never get easier.
Tonight, the Dallas Stars (33-26-5) begin a three-game road trip through western Canada, which they will have to repeat in the final week of this month. First up on the docket is the Edmonton Oilers (25-32-6). Tonight'...
PREVIEW 6:00 AM CST
Looking for their fifth consecutive win and a stronger grip on at least the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff chase, the Dallas Stars (33-26-4) face another tall order tonight when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins (36-21-5) at the American Airlines Center. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. CST and will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network....
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Letang was hit in the first period by Dallas left wing Eric Nystrom, whose right arm made contact with Letang's head. Letang, who missed almost two months with a concussion earlier this season, did not return to the game.
There is a perception among Penguins followers that last year's trade of defenseman Alex Goligoski for right wing James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen was a steal for general manager Ray Shero.