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Friday, March 23, 2012
Stars face key home-and-home series with Flames

By Mark Stepneski

FRISCO -- If these final games of the season are like the playoff series to get into the postseason, then these next two games are a series within a series for the Dallas Stars.

The Stars play a home-and-home with the Calgary Flames, a team they are fighting for a playoff spot. The Stars currently sit in in the eighth and final spot while the Flames are in eleventh place, just two points back.

Both teams come into the games - Saturday in Dallas and then Monday in Calgary - on a bit of a slide. The Stars have won just once in their last four games. The Flames are winless in four games (0-1-3).

These are two big games with big points at stake.

“They’re going to be a desperate team as are we. We’ve got to get points, too. With the back-to-back games I am sure it is going to be intense,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “It seems like everyone we are playing is jockeying for position. These are the kinds of games that we can thrive in. Looking forward to it.”

The Flames’ situation seems a little more desperate right now. They have fewer games remaining than several of the teams they are chasing, and are on the outside looking in. But the Stars see themselves equally high on the desperation meter. Failing to gain points means the potential of losing ground.

“We’re there, too. We understand where we are at,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.

The Stars have eight games left over the next two weeks that will determine whether they make the postseason tournament. And they know chances are it will probably come down to those final few games, perhaps the final day of the season. But the Stars don’t want to look too far ahead, but keep the focus on the next task at hand, and that is getting two points against Calgary on Saturday.

“We talked today with the group that every game, every day is a new day, every year is a new year. If we have to play 82 to get in then we’re prepared to play 82,” Gulutzan said. “We’re ready to go to April 7 to get in, but it is one day at a time until then. We’re not going to get in if we beat Calgary tomorrow. We have to play until April 7 and we’re prepared to work until then. Do the players sense the situation? Certainly they do, but we have to stay focused on what’s right in front of our face, and that is Calgary tomorrow.”

This home-and-home with the Flames will be the first of two the Stars have against teams they are battling for a playoff spot. They have another against the San Jose Sharks next week.

“With eight games left in the season it is ramped up to a playoff level now, every team battling,” said Stars forward Steve Ott. “You’ve seen how much the standings changed overnight. For us to have these home-and-homes is a great opportunity to put a lot of valuable points on the line either way and you have a chance to push ahead of teams by doing so.”