Stars look to build on solid February

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
12:01
AM CT
FRISCO, Texas -- February was a key month for the Dallas Stars and although there were some ups and downs over the 29 days, they came out of it in pretty good shape.

It was 16 games over 29 days, including four back-to-back sets. At one point, there were 11 games over 18 days, each one in a different building. When the dust settled on the month, the Stars had put together a solid 8-5-3 record and, most important, had gained ground in the playoff race, going from three points out of a playoff spot into the eighth and final spot.

“When you look back in retrospect, it certainly was a good month for us and it was a mental building month for us too,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We went through long stretches and we played well. So we’ve just got to keep moving, keep moving in that direction.”

The Stars got off to a bit of a rocky start, but their play picked up in the middle of the month and they started getting results late in the month, rattling off four straight wins before Wednesday night’s shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins to close February.

“Good lately, we’ve been playing good hockey probably our last eight or nine games here,” said defenseman Alex Goligoski. “It’s tight, we can’t go on any skids this time of year, you got to consistently play the right way. That’s the way we’re approaching it.”

The Stars’ schedule in March isn’t as daunting (15 games in the month and only two back-to backs), but it is filled with critical games against teams they are chasing or are chasing them in the playoff race. They play Calgary three times, San Jose twice and Chicago and Phoenix each once. There are three games against one of the league’s best teams, Vancouver, as well.

It starts with a three-game road trip through Western Canada, their first swing through Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver this season.

“We’ve got to get some points. We’ve got to get some points and we’ve got a big game Friday (at Edmonton),” said Gulutzan. “We’re not looking too far ahead. It’s game-by-game here.”

“It’s going be a tough road trip coming up,” said Stars forward Loui Eriksson. “We know where we’re at and we need the two points starting with Edmonton there. We know what we need to do. We need to win games.”

And Gulutzan believes the fact that the Stars will start this next stretch of key games in Canada will add to the playoff intensity of the games.

“When you get up there it is hockey country,” he said. “You are immersed it it. It’s all over the TV, it’s in the paper, it’s all over the street and you can feel the buzz in the air and the buildings are full. It has a playoff bite to it, so it is a good place to get into a playoff run for sure.”

February by the numbers

Here’s a look at how the Stars fared in some key statistical categories in February along with a comparison to other months this season. A few notes:

*The Stars allowed 2.31 goals per game during the month, their lowest GAA for a month since October.

*The team save percentage was 92.1, the best performance for a month since October.

*The Stars outscored their opponents 30-26 during five-on-five play.

*The Stars were 7-39 (17.9%) on the power play during February.

*They were 45-54 (83.3%) on the penalty kill for the month.

*Kari Lehtonen was 7-4-3 with a 2.10 goals against average and .925 save percentage in February.

*Michael Ryder led the Stars with 9 goals in February and ranked second with 15 points.

*Mike Ribeiro led the Stars with 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists).

*Ryder led the Stars with a plus-10 rating.

Mark Stepneski

ESPNDallas.com
Mark Stepneski joined ESPNDallas.com in July 2010. A former news/special projects producer for KXAS-TV, he has run the Andrew's Dallas Stars Page website since 1997.

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