Found March 04, 2012 on Fox Sports Southwest:
The Dallas Stars march on. On Sunday, the Stars beat the Flames 3-2 in a shootout, giving them back-to-back wins to start their three-game swing through Western Canada. Glen Gulutzan's club has now won four straight road games and continues to rack up points using a pretty simple formula. For one, the Stars continue to be carried by their top two lines, but they are also getting solid contributions from all four trios. In Friday's win at Edmonton, the Stars got goals from their third and fourth lines before first-line winger Michael Ryder added an empty netter in a 3-1 win over the Oilers. And in Sunday's win over the Flames, it was the Stars' top line that delivered yet again as Loui Eriksson scored Dallas' first shorthanded goal since November and Michael Ryder netted is team-leading 28th of the season. Eriksson also scored in the shootout, along with second-line center Jamie Benn, who only recently returned from a leg injury. But the formula for this club remains a simple one-get pucks on net, kill penalties, get solid goaltending and the rest should take care of itself. It was the same recipe that served this club so well during an 11-4-0 start that had the Stars being the toast of the National Hockey League under their rookie head coach in Gulutzan. The players admit they went away from that simple formula during their November losing streak and that they didn't seriously recommit themselves to adhering to that approach again until not all that long ago. However, it's clear the results speak for themselves. Dallas continues to get a healthy amount of pucks on net and the Stars' PK, a unit which is led by assistant coach Paul Jerrard, continues to get the job done and is quickly ascending the ranks as the top penalty killing unit in the entire NHL. As for their goaltending, starter Kari Lehtonen has been rock solid between the pipes and could definitely earn some serious consideration as the team's MVP should they end their three-year playoff draught. Lehtonen has kept the Stars in a lot of games throughout the season and hasn't let in too many soft goals. The Finnish-born netminder has always seemed to be there to deliver a top-notch save whenever his team needed it the most. And he's also been pretty decent in the shootout, a tall order for any NHL netminder. Lehtonen played 33 of the Stars' final 34 games last year and for good reason-then head coach Marc Crawford had little faith in backup Andrew Raycroft. Well, Raycroft is now in Cedar Park with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League after rookie Richard Bachman showed he was more than capable of being an able lieutenant to Lehtonen back in late November and early December while the affable Finn was recovering from a groin injury. Dallas will complete their current three-game Western Canada road trip on Tuesday night in Vancouver. And with a full day off until their big game with the Canucks, there isn't any reason to think it won't be Lehtonen between the posts come Tuesday, if the talented Euro does want a breather, Bachman has already shown he's more than capable of stepping in and delivering a pretty stellar performance in his own right. And no matter how Tuesday's game with the Canucks turns out, the Stars could have a familiar face waiting on them in captain Brenden Morrow, who resumed skating on Monday after a three-week absence. Morrow could be back on the ice for Thursday's game with the Sharks, a contest that figures to loom large in the playoff race. While it is only two straight wins to start March, it's definitely a step in the right direction for this group. Last season, the Stars dropped five in a row to end February and did get it together early in March but everyone remembers how they fell short, one point to be exact by falling to the Wild in the regular season finale last April. But if this group can get at least a point on Tuesday and head back to Big D with some serious momentum, especially with a two-game homestand against San Jose and Anaheim on the horizon, then this could be a team local fans could really get behind. After all, the Stars have just 16 games left, an even split of eight at home and eight on the road and it's clear their playoff push is well underway.
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