By Martin Iheke
At morning skate before the home game against the Edmonton Oilers last Tuesday, I had a brief chat with Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill. I asked him about the Stars six-game losing streak heading into the game against the Oilers and he was not worried about it at all. He told me that every team around the league will go through stretches where they are not playing well and that is just a part of life during an 82-game regular season. The Stars just happen to be in a really tough stretch that he believes they can come out of. Since it is such a long season, I am sure the Stars will eventually turn it around. The question they now have to face is will this bad stretch of play be enough to keep them out of the playoffs for the sixth straight season? Time will tell, but right now, they are not doing so well.
They did finally get their first win of 2014 by beating the lowly Oilers, 5-2. There was not much to highlight except that the Stars did get a much-needed win against a team that is not very good. Five different Stars players scored a goal and goalie Kari Lehtonen was solid in net with 31 saves. After the game, Stars captain Jamie Benn talked about snapping the six-game losing streak. “It’s a good feeling,” Benn said. “We found a way to get two points tonight and we just want to build from here,” as he continued. Benn’s teammate Ryan Garbutt agrees as well. “Yeah for sure it felt like forever and all the guys are pretty happy about that,” Garbutt said. “First one in 2014 and we’re going to have to keep it going here,” as he continued.
Unfortunately the Stars could not keep it going against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins as they controlled the game in route to a 4-2 win last Thursday night. That is now seven losses in a row against the East for the Stars. The effort was there, but the Bruins showed why they are one of the best teams in that conference with their ability to use their size to control all three zones and neutralize the speed of the Stars. This was particular a rough outing for Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. He was on the ice for at least three of the four goals for the Bruins as he was physically overmatched and caught out of position most of the time finishing the game with a -2. Head coach Lindy Ruff talked about him having a tough one after the game. “Yeah he did,” Ruff said. “That pair had a little bit of a tough night going against bigger bodies,” as he continued.
The Stars had no time to dwell on the loss as the Minnesota Wild were next up on the schedule. They currently hold the final playoff spot in the West and if the Stars were to have any hopes of making the playoffs, they would have to catch them in the standings. The game took place in St. Paul, Minnesota, last Saturday night and the Stars showed a lot of resiliency in the game battling back both times to tie the score, but again, could not get a break to go their way as defenseman Nate Prosser would score the game-winner for the Wild in overtime to win, 3-2. The Stars are now nine points back of the Wild for the final playoff spot. “We outworked them, outplayed them, and didn’t give them a lot. Just a little bit of bad luck,’’ Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said according to dallasnews.com. “You look at the work put in, and you’re happy with that, but you’re not happy just getting the one point. I said we needed three of the next four, and that’s one point we lose. We still can gain some ground in the next couple of games and get it down to five or six,” as he continued.
Ruff and the Stars will have the opportunity to do that as they will play at the Nashville Predators on Monday night before returning home to play the Minnesota Wild again on Tuesday night. Then the Stars will have an opportunity to snap a seven-game losing streak again the Eastern Conference when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town on Thursday night and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
1/20 @Predators 7:00 PM
1/21 vs Wild 7:00 PM
1/23 vs Maple Leafs 7:00 PM
1/25 vs Penguins 7:00 PM