- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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First week out of the break: The Stars went 2-1-0 the first week out of the break, climbed from 10th place to 9th, and picked up one point on the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Gaining ground in the standings can be a grind and that’s why picking up points is important. By picking up four of a possible six points, the Stars have gained on everybody bunched up from 7th-12th in the first week out of the break, so that’s a positive.
The week ahead: Phoenix is in town Tuesday. It’s another matchup against a team the Stars are battling for those final playoff spots, so it has the potential to be a four point game. The Coyotes, who are 1-1-0 since the break and coming off a win over San Jose Saturday, play a home game against Detroit Monday night, so they’ll be on the second end of a back-to-back.
The Stars then head out on the road for a back-to-back set against Columbus (Thursday) and Buffalo (Friday). Although these are two teams out of the playoff picture, the Stars, as has been pointed out a lot lately, have not fared well in back-to-back sets this season and this will be a test.
Grumpy Gully: Although his team has won two of three out of the break and three of the last four overall, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan hasn’t been exactly a giddy Gully.
He was low key after the Stars win over the Ducks, there weren’t many positives in the loss to the Sharks and he wasn’t exactly thrilled after Saturday’s shootout victory over the Wild.
“We relied on our goalie a lot,” Gulutzan said. “We have to be better. We have to be better. I’m ecstatic about the two points and it’s going to help us, but we have a different level that we need to get to.”
He’s got a point. The Stars went on a nice run early in the season while relying on Lehtonen way too much, and it caught up with them eventually. Raising the level of play is going to be key as this key month of February moves along.
The tough part of the month’s schedule starts this week. They’ll play 12 games in 20 days heading up to the trade deadline. There are three back-to-backs in there and some tough opponents, too. Detroit, Chicago, Nashville and Vancouver are on the schedule. There are key games against teams they are battling for those playoff spots in Los Angeles, Calgary, Phoenix (twice) and Minnesota. It’s a big stretch of games.
Statistical tidbits: Here a few statistical items of note.
*Since their 11-3-0 run to the start the season, the Stars have won more than two games in a row just once. They won three in row from December 10-15 (at Los Angeles, at New York Rangers and at New York Islanders).
*The Stars have scored on the power play in three straight games. It’s the first time they’ve scored on the PP in three straight games since November 4-8 (vs. Colorado, at Carolina, at Washington).
*The Stars are 14-5-1 when they score a power play goal and 13-17-1 when they don’t.
*The Stars have had seven power play chances since the All-Star break. Their opponents have had 14 chances with the man-advantage.