The Dallas Stars are feeling good about themselves these days, and they should be. They’ve won four straight overall and are 6-1-1 in their last eight games. That has them sitting at the top of the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference a little more than a quarter way through the season.
Nice time to be on a roll, especially with the top team in the Eastern Conference – the Washington Capitals – coming to town.
“It’s a great challenge and it comes at the right time for us. We’re playing well,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “We really want to challenge ourselves to be at the right form and the right style of play that will allow us to win the game. At the end of the day we don’t care how we win, but we’d like to win correctly.”
The Caps are on a roll as well. They won 4-1 at St. Louis Wednesday night to run their winning streak to four games. They lead the league in points (38) and in wins (18). And, of course, there’s the high end offensive talent on their roster. They have three players – Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom – who are the in the top six in NHL scoring. As a team they are among the top ten in almost every key statistical category.
For the Stars, it’s what some would call a measuring stick game.
“For us, every game is important. Points on any given night are big. Obviously it’s one of the top teams in the league and any time you play a team like that it’s a good measuring stick,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “We’ve got to approach it the same way we’ve approached the last four, which is go in there, do the little things and execute what we are supposed to do.”
Stars forward Adam Burish said it's an opportunity to do more than increase their points total by two. It’s a chance to make some points in other ways.
“When you get a chance to play against the best team in the league, whether it’s a Washington, Pittsburgh or Detroit, you get up for it,” said Burish. “It’s almost a statement game. When we were in Carolina, we were on national TV and that was kind of like, ‘Let’s make a statement here.’ You don’t get a lot of chances to play on national TV and you don’t get a lot of chances to play the top teams in the other conference. It’s as much of a statement game as it is a measuring stick.”
While Thursday’s game is against one of the top teams and can be view as a statement game or measuring stick game, it is also a chance for the Stars to continue their current roll. Besides being a team that has won four straight and six of eight, they are also a team that is 6-0-1 in their last seven home games. Burish said the Stars are a team playing with a lot of confidence right now and they need to take advantage of that.
“When you have it you need to run with it as long as you can and right now we have it,” Burish said. “It would be important for us to put as much as many games together as we can. Put the hay in the barn now and get as many points as we can now while we have this high and this confidence. You’re going to lose a game here and there, but keep it running as long you can.”
“A very good rush team. They are so dangerous on the attack and have a really good, active defense. I know they’ve added Scott Hannan, so maybe they are looking at becoming more of a playoff style team, a team that will able to compete in the playoffs. But when we do prepare for them, we prepare for their high energy skill. Their top line is just terrific. I really like their checkers, [David] Steckel, [Jason] Chimera and those kind of guys. They make them more complete. They are at that point in their careers where they are looking to take the steps to make the final push. They are an elite team in the league. They can beat you with skill, but they are forging an identity of being a more well-rounded, more complete team that will play any style.”
Stars coach Marc Crawford on the Washington Capitals