FRISCO -- Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said he is pleased with his team’s performance through the first 20 games, which marks the quarter point of the season.
When the Stars beat Edmonton 4-1 Monday night they improved to 12-8-0 on the season. Their 24 points currently rank them sixth in the Western Conference and their .600 points percentage is sixth as well.
There have been ups and downs. They had an 11-3-0 start that featured winnings streaks of four and five games. Then there was the five-game losing streak that ended with Monday night’s victory over the Oilers.
“I’m pleased. We obviously went into a bit of a rut there, but I think we’re a learning team,” Nieuwendyk said. “Our coach is implementing some things, we’re learning how to try to put our game out there. I’m hoping [Monday] night was the start of something good again.”
In the victory over the Oilers, the Stars rolled out a balanced attack. Players from all four lines scored goals and eleven different players registered points. Nieuwendyk said depth is the biggest positive over the first 20 games, and that’s an issue he addressed with his offseason signings and an early season trade.
“I think Vernon Fiddler, (Eric) Nystrom and (Radek) Dvorak have given us a solid, real hardworking third line,” Nieuwendyk said. “We have better balance on our team than we’ve had the past couple years. “
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen has been superb for the Stars in the first quarter, posting a league-high 12 wins, a 2.35 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson have chipped in 19 points each over the first 20 games. Defenseman Sheldon Souray, another offseason signing, has been a big boost at both ends of the ice.
But Nieuwendyk said it will take everyone chipping in one way or another to carry the Stars over the course of the long season.
“We’re not going to win this on one or two guys,” Nieuwendyk said. “We need good work ethic and contributions from everybody.”
Moving forward, Nieuwendyk said he’d like to see a more consistent effort from the Stars, and not let frustration creep in the way it did when the Stars hit those bumps that are going to occur now and then over the grind of a long season.
“Consistency in our game. When we were 11-3-0 we were maybe reading our press clippings a little bit too much. Then we got a little dose of reality,” said Nieuwendyk. “I think maybe the key for the next 20 games is to find some consistency in our game. It’s going to be tough. You have to find a way to get your game out on the ice and not get frustrated. That’s been the theme the last week – let’s put the frustration aside and play our game and see how we measure up.
“It’s going to be tough and competitive all the way through. We see that in the standings. Sometimes you go through those growing pains and they make you stronger. All in all, our start has been pretty good through the first 20 games.”
*Defenseman Alex Goligoski (broken thumb) skated on his own prior to the practice, handling and shooting pucks with his good hand. He also did some on-ice work with assistant coach Paul Jerrard.