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Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Stars stay optimistic despite recent woes

By Mark Stepneski

Despite a three-game winless streak, just win in their last six games and sitting four points out of a playoff spot, the Dallas Stars remain optimistic about their playoff chances as they head out on a key road trip against all four of their Pacific Division rivals.

“The belief is always there. The last week, you can’t change that. We can change what’s coming up if you stay positive and still believe,” said center Mike Ribeiro. “I know there are people who don’t believe in us, a lot of people around here too. We’re a group here that is going to stick together. We’ve been sticking together all year and we’re going to keep doing that and keep believing. We’ll play hard until the end of the year.”

The Stars enter Tuesday’s play four points behind eighth place Chicago (with one game in hand) and five points behind seventh place Anaheim (with two games in hand). Both Chicago and Anaheim kept the pressure on by winning Monday night. It looks like a tough climb for the Stars, the mood around the team remains upbeat.

“I think [the mood] is good considering where we’re at right now. We have to stay up. We can’t get down,” Daley said. “Everybody’s got to be positive and we’ve got to be excited. That’s when we play our best – when we’re positive, excited and going. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

The Stars have eight games to go, six of them on the road. The next four are all on the road, all against divisional rivals who just happen to all be sitting in the top eight.

Asked if it was doable, considering the road ahead, the usually talkative Steve Ott kept his reply short: “It was doable last week, why isn’t it this week?”

The Stars kick off the road trip Tuesday in Phoenix. After that it’s on to San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. The last time the Stars embarked on a trip against those four teams – at the beginning of March – they took seven of eight points by putting together a 3-0-1 record.

“I think it should give us [confidence]. It’s not going to be any easier than the last one, that’s for sure,” said defenseman Trevor Daley. “We just have to take it one game and two points at a time.”

And that’s what it will take at this point. The Stars can’t jump into a playoff spot on Tuesday. But they can improve their chances and the start the climb with two points against the Coyotes.

“We’ve got a big game on Tuesday night against Phoenix. You’ve got to recognize the task at hand,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “Our task at hand isn’t to make the playoffs in this next game. Our task at hand is to find a way to be good in that game and allow ourselves to get the two points that we so desperately need.”

Burish, Skrastins on trip

Forward Adam Burish (leg) and defenseman Karlis Skrastins won’t play on Tuesday, but they are traveling with the team and could end up playing at some point on the trip.

"I doubt that either will be ready to play [Tuesday], but the fact that they are traveling with us is a positive sign," said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “I would say both Burish and Skrastins are possibilities as we go into this trip.”

Defenseman Nicklas Grossman (knee) and forward Brian Sutherby (back) will not travel with the team and will stay home to continue to get treatment for their injuries.