Dallas Stars: Glen Gulutzan

Nill practices patience turning Stars around

October, 22, 2013
Jim NillAP Photo/Tony GutierrezJim Nill says the Stars are probably about two years away from where they'd like to be.

FRISCO, Texas -- There isn’t much hanging on the walls of Jim Nill’s office, which sits just above the practice ice at Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco, home of the Dallas Stars.

There are nails, at least. But no pictures of Stars hockey players or even a few he helped bring to the Detroit Red Wings in his long tenure there.

“That’s on the list,” Nill said. “Be patient.”

Patience is something Nill is working hard to preach -- and even harder to practice.

The 55-year-old Western Canada native admits that the competitor in him makes it difficult for him to accept that turning around a Stars franchise that last made the playoffs when George W. Bush was still in the White House (and not yet living in Dallas) isn’t going to happen quickly.

“I’ve got to be honest: I think we’re going to turn the corner, but we’re probably two years away from what we should be,” Nill said last week. “The core of the team is 20 to 26 years of age. That’s young. You give those guys two years to mature and what we have coming up in the system and I think in two years we’ll have a solid core. That’s how Stanley Cup champions are built. We are in the early stage, but we have the talent.”

Tyler Seguin #91, Sergei Gonchar #55, Erik Cole #72, Jamie Benn #14 and Alex Chiasson
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesJim Nill wants to find a young core to build the club around and keep improving.
It’s early in Nill’s inaugural season, but already his patience is getting tested. Dallas is 3-5-0 and is struggling on defense. The club is near the bottom of the league in shots against and, as you can imagine, is taking too many penalties thanks to the puck spending an inordinate amount of time in the Stars’ own end. It doesn’t help that starting goalie Kari Lehtonen has missed most of those games after tweaking his groin earlier in the season. He’s slated to return Thursday against Calgary.

“We just have to stay patient,” Nill said.

There’s that word again. What you won’t see in Nill is any kind of panic. That’s just not his style. Neither is skating into a new environment and showing off his guns despite his freshly-minted status as the Stars’ sheriff. But he has a way -- perhaps it’s his keen knowledge of the game and calm, yet assured demeanor -- of allowing his belief and confidence to seep into every aspect of the organization. He’s in charge, there’s no doubt about that. But he doesn’t have to flaunt it or demand it.

“The guy has no ego,” Stars owner Tom Gaglardi said. “He’s knows what he’s talking about. He’s on his game. He’s very competitive and hungry.”

Part of that comes from the fact that he was Ken Holland’s right-hand man in Detroit for so long, helping that organization draft, develop and hold onto key pieces that have made them the envy of most clubs in the NHL. And part of it is Nill has the ability to make those working for him feel immediately like they have a critical say in the direction of the franchise.
Maybe it’s that whole patience thing again. After all, Nill had chances to leave Detroit and didn’t. Part of it was his family. Part of it was his wife’s health -- Bekki has incurable liver cancer. It was discovered two years ago and 12 years after her breast cancer went into remission.

But when the Stars called, the Nills decided it was time for a move. That was after 19 years in management with the Red Wings and another three before that as a player.

Nill said he was sold after meeting Gaglardi and becoming convinced that there was stability in ownership and a commitment to winning. And he knew there were key pieces on the ice to building a contender.

“Any successful team is built from goaltending to defense to center ice,” Nill said. “You have to be good down the middle.”

Nill called Lehtonen a “great goalie” and is convinced he’s a player the team can build around.

“I don’t think he realizes how good he can be,” Nill said. “He’s at that age where he can figure it out.”

But the other two parts of Nill’s equation are going to take some work. He knew that before he arrived.

“There’s weakness on defense and we have to do something, but I know there are some prospects coming up,” Nill said. “That takes time. Defense is a tough position to learn. You need experience. The other big spot is center ice. That was a major hole.”

Nill went about plugging it. He moved Jamie Benn back to wing, his natural position, and named him team capatin. Nill made the biggest trade of his brief tenure, giving up a packaged centered by Loui Eriksson to get Tyler Seguin, a talented 21-year-old center. The deal didn’t come without some risk. Seguin made waves even before he skated in Dallas, putting some things on Twitter he shouldn’t have. But Nill managed to land one of the best centers available and did so by doing his homework. Boston needed to make a move with the salary cap dipping and the Stars had the ability to do it and improve their forward group. Nill made sure the Bruins had the Stars in mind when they were ready to make a move.

It was a deal in the mold of Nill’s philosophy: Find a young core to build the club around and then keep improving. Nill believes in doing that through draft and development, key trades and quality signings. It’s a blueprint that has made the Red Wings the envy of every organization in the NHL. You know the names -- Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary -- guys developed or obtained by the Wings that made up their core and shoved the winning window wide open.

Of course, sometime mistakes are made. You could argue, at least right now, that $10 million for two years of an aging Sergei Gonchar might not have been money well spent. But Nill will also argue that having Gonchar and even Shawn Horcoff teach the younger guys about life off the ice will help them two or three years down the road, when Gonchar and Horcoff aren’t a part of this club anymore.
Nill believes strongly in what he’s doing and he’s not going to change course, even when the ice gets a bit choppy.

“You have to have stability,” Nill said. “If you start making changes every two years on philosophy, you’re going to chase your tail.

“We’re going to draft and develop. That’s the key in the world of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement, which includes a salary cap). You have to make smart signings. If you get committed to somebody long-term for big money and it’s the wrong person, your hands are tied.

“We want to be a high-paced, hungry, competitive team. We’ll play hard and move the puck. You can’t play to not make a mistake. We want to make plays. But you have to be smart. That takes time to learn.”

Nill also knows it takes a coach to help make that happen. He made the decision to fire Glen Gulutzan shortly after he took the job and began a search. Nill wanted someone with experience who could motivate and teach a young group. So he hired Lindy Ruff.

“The process of hiring a coach was probably the toughest thing I’ve had to do in my young career as a GM,” Nill said. “You know people, but you don’t know them. You interview and some people are naturally polished and some aren’t. That may not mean anything.

“I don’t want to say I got lucky, but I got the right guy. He’s a great person. The one thing I didn’t realize is he’s such a detailed guy. His passion is unbelievable.”

Nill didn’t overhaul the existing management group. Instead, he came in and evaluated the people left after Joe Nieuwendyk’s departure and decided to keep most of them. Les Jackson, the assistant GM, is respected in the game for his ability to evaluate talent as he runs the club’s scouting department. Mark Janko and Scott White do a fair amount of negotiating contracts and keeping up-to-date on the CBA, which a quick glance makes it appear you need several advanced degrees to understand.

“He cares about every detail in the entire organization from players, player salaries and treating the players with respect as well as staff, training staff, scouts, everybody,” Janko said. “He wants to know about everything that happens every day, but not in a controlling way. It’s more in a leadership way.”

The Stars clearly have their leader. And he’s telling anyone who will listen that while he’s frustrated with his team’s start, he’s staying patient.

“Patience is tough for everybody,” Gaglardi said. “I expect to get better. I don’t want to go backward. How far that takes us in terms of making the playoffs or how many rounds we win? I don’t know. I think this is a core of guys that in the next couple of years are going to improve and then in year three or four or five, we’ve got a real shot to win. That’s what we’re building for. But it takes time.”

In the meantime, Nill and his staff will continue to look for any way to improve the club while never wavering from their philosophy. Perhaps with some of that patience, Nill could hang a few photos on his office wall, though?

Willie Desjardins named coach of Texas Stars

June, 13, 2012
The Dallas Stars announced Wednesday that Willie Desjardins will coach the Texas Stars, the organization's primary affiliate in the American Hockey League. Desjardins, 55, was the Stars' associate head coach the last two seasons.

“We believe that Willie’s track record as a teacher of the game and his ability to develop young players is a perfect fit for the Texas Stars,” Joe Nieuwendyk said. “His knowledge of Glen Gulutzan’s system and his familiarity with our prospects will continue to improve player development between Dallas and the Texas Stars.”

Here is part of the club's release:

“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to become head coach of the Texas Stars,” said Desjardins. “I feel one of my strengths has always been in coaching younger players and this is a fantastic opportunity to do just that. The Stars organization has a group of very talented prospects coming through the system and I look forward to helping them develop.”

Previous to his stint in Dallas, Desjardins was the head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League from 2002-2010, leading the club to the WHL Championship in 2004 and 2007. He coached Medicine Hat at the Memorial Cup Tournament in those two seasons, and was runner-up at the 2007 tournament. He was awarded the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as WHL Coach of the Year for the 2005-06 season.

During his eight years in Medicine Hat, Desjardins compiled a regular season record of 333-182-61 and a playoff mark of 65-43. His teams qualified for the playoffs each season he coached the club, and finished in the top three in goals scored in six of those eight years.

The native of Climax, Saskatchewan, served as an assistant coach for gold medal-winning Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championships. He was the head coach for Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championships, earning the silver medal.

Desjardins was head coach of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades during the 1997-98 season, after working as bench boss for the Seibu Bears in Japan from 1994-96. Previously, he served as head coach at the University of Calgary from 1989-1994, leading the Dinosaurs to two Canada West University Athletic Association (CWUAA) championships. He was an assistant coach at the university from 1985-89.

Prospect update: Reilly Smith

May, 14, 2012
Here is the latest in a series of updates on the top prospects of the Dallas Stars. This one looks at forward Reilly Smith, who joined the team at the end of the season after wrapping up his college career at Miami University.

Smith, as a junior, had 30 goals in 39 games, finishing second in the nation to fellow Stars prospect Austin Smith. His 48 points were tied for tenth in the nation.

Smith, a third round pick (69th overall) in 2009, was named First Team All-CCHA, Second-Team All-American by Inside College Hockey, and was among the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. In his three years at Miami he registered 122 points (66 goals, 56 assists) in 121 games.

“The confidence has been a huge factor for me in being able to find the back of the net, and also the physical aspect of it. I’ve put on a lot of weight and strength over the three years at Miami,” said Smith, who was 160 pounds when arrived at Miami and was 185 pounds when he left. “All of that correlated to my success in college hockey.”

After his college career ended he signed a three-year entry-level with Dallas and was put on the NHL roster, making his debut in a game at Edmonton on March 28. He played 4:05 and had one shot on goal.

“Even though I played only four minutes I tried to soak in every moment of it. Just being in Edmonton and having so much history around you, being a small part of it was a great experience,” Smith said. “Being my first NHL game it was phenomenal, getting the win was great and I got my feet wet for the next game in Vancouver.”

Smith played 8:39 and had no points in that game against Vancouver, was a healthy scratch for the next three games and then played in the season finale against St. Louis, picking up no points and two penalty minutes in 12:28 of ice time.

“He has some real nice attributes as far as an offensive player goes. He just needs to become more familiar with our defensive structure and getting used to playing with pro players,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “I think he is going to be a good player in the future.”

The 21-year-old Smith, who is a left shot but plays both right and left wing, has speed, skill and a good shot. He’s projected as a top six forward.

“Reilly has been a real good player from the time we drafted him. He had a real good college career. It was nice that he got into a few games in Dallas to give him a preview of what the NHL is all about and to see what it takes to play at that level,” said Les Jackson, Dallas Stars Director of Player Personnel. “He’s showed at every level he’s played at that he is a good player. Now it will be his challenge to go to the American League or to our team, if he makes it, to learn the lessons to adjust to be a good pro. I think it will take him some time, but he’ll be a good offensive player at the pro level.”

As for Smith’s chances of starting next season at the NHL level, Jackson said time will tell.

“That will depend on his summer and how he comes in,” Jackson said. “Realistically the first step should be playing in the American League and being a good player there, but if he is good enough to bypass that it will be great for us. Time will tell that for sure.”

FRISCO -- Since Kari Lehtonen made the full time jump to the NHL back in 2005 he hasn’t seen much playoff action. Just two Stanley Cup playoff games to be specific. That’s why he’s looking forward to the chance to play for Finland at the 2012 World Championship.

“I want to get used to playing in May and extend the season. That’s what you need to do when you are ultimately in the playoffs and going deep there,” Lehtonen said. “I think that will be great for me to make the summer a little shorter and keep playing.”

Lehtonen’s two NHL playoff games came in 2007, when the Atlanta Thrashers were swept in the first round by the New York Rangers. That year was also the last time he played in May, helping lead Finland to a silver medal at the World Championship, posting a 4-2-0 record with a 1.93 goals against average, and earning best goaltender of the tournament honors.

The Stars netminder sees the tournament experience as similar to the playoffs, where goaltending can be key to a team’s success.

“I’ve done it a few times and you have to try to find your best mode. It’s so short, you have to be on your game totally, because there’s going to be a couple of other goalies that will be for sure,” Lehtonen said. “It’s the same thing probably as a playoff situation. It’s always goalie battles and you try to be the better one. I think that’ll be good for me to get that experience again.”

Lehtonen does have postseason experience besides those two NHL playoff games back in 2007. He led Jokerit to the Finnish Elite League championship in 2002 and was named the playoff MVP. He led the Chicago Wolves to the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals in 2005.

But he hasn’t played beyond the NHL regular season for several years, and the Stars see this chance for Lehtonen to play at the Worlds as a good building block for the Dallas netminder.

“Whenever you get a chance to see what it feels like to playing in May, it’s a good experience,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.

Lehtonen won’t be the only Stars player playing in May. So will Jamie Benn (Canada), Loui Eriksson (Sweden), Alex Goligoski (USA), Richard Bachman (USA), Philip Larsen (Denmark) and Tomas Vincour (Czech Republic).

“I do think it’s important, and I think they’re good experiences,” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. “In the case of some of these guys, they want to make a good impression and get some international experience with the Olympics right around the corner again, and I think that’s all part of it. In the case of Kari, I think it’s important that he plays under that microscope and backstops his country. I think it will be good for him.”

Lehtonen and the Finns will be under a microscope. The tournament is being played in Finland and Sweden. Finland, currently ranked No. 1 in the world and a tournament favorite, will play all of its games in Helsinki.

But it will also be a trip down memory lane for Lehtonen, who played his junior hockey and in Finnish Elite League for Jokerit Helsinki.

“I don’t think that hurts to go back after 10 years since I left, and to go back to the same building,” Lehtonen said. “I think that will be pretty cool.”

And it will be a chance to get some valuable experience as well.

2012 World Championship

When: May 4 – May 20

Where: Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden

Who: 16 teams including the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Italy and France

Television: NBC Sports Network will carry all the Team USA preliminary round games, all four quarterfinal games, a semifinal game and the gold medal game

Improving power play a focus for Stars

April, 13, 2012
FRISCO -- It’s no secret that the Dallas Stars power play was a sore spot this season. The numbers are well documented. It was the worst in the league at 13.5 percent. That percentage was the worst in franchise history and the 33 goals scored set a franchise mark for power play futility as well.

But here are some more numbers. The Stars were 20-6-3 this season when they scored on the power play and 22-29-2 when they didn’t. In their 42 wins they were 24-138 on the power play for a 17.4 percent conversion rate. In games they didn’t win they were 9-106 or 8.5 percent.

The power play was a hot topic the Stars faded away in the playoff race and it was still a topic as the Stars held exit interviews and met with the media this week.

“I am sure that will be number one on Glen Gulutzan’s agenda this summer, breaking that down and analyzing,” Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said of the power play. “There was a lot of discussion about Jamie Benn not being out there as much as some other guys. There was a time period where Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson were kind of carrying this team and having some success, but it didn’t translate on the power play for any of our guys and we’re really going to have dig in hard and figure out why.”

When asked about possible offseason moves, Nieuwendyk mentioned the power play as an area that needed to be addressed.

Gulutzan said the Stars had the personnel to have a better power play this season, but they just didn’t get the job done.

“I don’t think we need to bring in anyone for the power play. As coaches I think we can do a better job,” Gulutzan said. “The power play comes with a little bit of confidence and that got in our kitchens a little bit. I think we’d go about thing somewhat differently with our power play, but we changed it four or five times. Everybody focuses a little bit on the end, but we were getting pressure from day one to game 82 on that thing. We changed it four times and who played with who four times, and I think it just got in our kitchen a little bit.”

Gulutzan has some valid points. The Stars’ power play woes took center stage after a dismal performance in the loss to San Jose that basically doomed its playoff chances, but it was erratic for most of the year. And there were a lot of different combinations of players used over the season, too. The only constant was that it struggled most of the time. There were a few good runs on the power play, but they were offset by some long stretches of low productivity.

“It’s the number one part we have to get better at,” said Stars forward Loui Eriksson. “We have to score more on the power play, that’s the way we can win more games. … We have to outwork them. We’ve been a little too sloppy sometimes. We need to put more pucks to the net, too. I think that’s how you score goals. You have to get traffic in front and put pucks there. Then rebounds will come out and you will score more goals. That’s something we need to do.”

It didn’t help that the Stars had only 244 power play opportunities, the third lowest total in the league, and that they were shorthanded 303 times, the fourth most in the league. Despite having a respectable penalty kill that ranked 13th in the league, they still gave up 19 more power play goals than they scored.

“Certainly we think it’s an area we where we can get four or five more points by having a better power play,” said Gulutzan. “Along with discipline, we can get four or five more points and we’re not minus-60 as far as penalties for and against. But as far as personnel goes, I think we have the personnel here to have a good power play.”
FRISCO -- Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan usually takes a break after the season, but not this year. He’s not used to missing the playoffs.

Gulutzan’s teams made it both seasons he coached in the AHL and five of six years when he was in the ECHL. So, after missing the postseason tournament in his first season as an NHL head coach, Gulutzan and his staff will stay busy preparing for next season.

“Usually I’ve taken a little bit of a break, but this year we won’t. We’ve got to dig in to a few things. We’re asking the players to be better in certain areas and us coaches have to be better. We have to be held to the same standard,” Gulutzan said. “Chances are we won’t work on Fridays, but Monday through Thursday and at nights watching other teams play – we’re going to go through video here until we are ready to go.”

The Stars coach said he probably won’t watch too much of the first round of the playoffs. The emotions are still raw after not getting into postseason play. But he’ll have plenty of video of his team to watch.

Gulutzan spent all day Wednesday holding exit interviews with his players. Talks he said were productive.

“From an interview standpoint they were good and enlightening. They probably ran a little bit longer than everybody wanted, but you’ve got to tidy up loose ends and look for anything that can move you forward,” he said. “I thought we had some good honest dialogue with lots of players and lots of positive stuff that came out of a finish that we really didn’t want. We got a lot of positive stuff and I think everybody is going to be better for it next year.”

Gulutzan is optimistic about things moving forward. He believes the team made strides this season, despite missing the playoffs. And with owner Tom Gaglardi now at the helm and GM Joe Nieuwendyk having more flexibility to add pieces, Gulutzan believes the Stars are ready to take another step forward next season.

“If you look at the young guys we brought up, our D, our goaltending , the way some guys had career years, like Jamie Benn and some of the players we brought in a year ago, if we can build off that a little bit,” Gulutzan said. “Every year you are trying to make your team a little bit better, we did so this year even though we maybe didn’t show it in the standings. We certainly did make some strides with the personnel we brought in. We’ve got to continue to develop from within and maybe bring a couple guys in and put ourselves to be position to be first in the division with one game to go.”
Hockey Canada announced its first 17 players for the 2012 World Championship, and Stars forward Jamie Benn is among that group.

Benn, who has represented Canada at the World Junior Championship, is one of 11 forwards on the roster. Other forwards include Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, John Tavares, Jordan Eberle and Jeff Skinner.

"Whenever you get a chance to play in May, it is a good experience. Plus, they are playing with some elite players over there," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "For Benny, it's maybe a chance to play with Getzlaf, Perry, Tavares and those type of players, guys of his caliber. They make each other better, so it will be a good experience."

The announcement on Canada's roster and the list of players is here.

Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski and goaltender Richard Bachman were on Team USA's initial list of players, which was released yesterday. Texas Stars goaltender Jack Campbell is expected to be added to the roster as well.

Goaltender Kari Lehtonen is expected to play for Finland, forward Loui Eriksson is playing for Sweden, defenseman Philip Larsen will play for Denmark and Tomas Vincour is under consideration for the Czech squad.

The tournament, which gets underway May 4, will be played in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden.
DALLAS -- GM Joe Nieuwendyk said Glen Gulutzan had a solid first season as head coach of the Dallas Stars, and added that he believes Gulutzan is the guy to grow with the team as it moves forward.

Gulutzan, who was hired last summer after two seasons as head coach of the team’s AHL affiliate, put together a 42-35-5 (.543) record in his first season. The Stars finished 10th in the Western Conference and 18th overall in the league.

“I think it was pretty solid,” Nieuwendyk said of Gulutzan’s first season. “He learned a lot and he’s going to grow with the team that we’re going to put together here in the next few years. I’ve always viewed him as a guy who is going to be a long-term coach. You have to go through some bumps to move ahead, and I think he experienced some bumps this year. We’re all going to push forward together.”

Heading into Saturday’s regular season finale against St. Louis, Gulutzan was asked to assess his first season as the bench boss of the Stars.

“I certainly learned a lot. I certainly know it’s a very tough league,” Gulutzan said. “The coaching staff certainly feels that we could have done a better job, certainly in a few areas to get this team into the playoffs. We take that responsibility seriously. We all have to get better. That’s certainly what we’re going to do next season. It’s certainly disappointing, these last few games, you have a goal in mind whether it’s your first season or your tenth. Everybody is competitive. We’ve just got to be better to get the job done. That’s the bottom line. “

As for what he learned in his first season, Gulutzan had this to say.

“The league is a lot more simple than you think it is. You have to be very consistent and you have do things a certain way night in and night out to get in,” he said. “It’s not some magic potion to get you in. It’s not anything mysterious to the other 29 coaches or the teams in this league. It’s a very simple formula, maybe almost boring at times. You have to stick with it for 82 games or the league will smack you down and put you in your place. That’s what I’ve learned.”
DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars were 0-4 on the power play in Saturday's 3-2 loss to St. Louis, solidifying this season’s power play as the least productive in franchise history.

The Stars finished the season 33-244 with the man advantage for a league-worst 13.5 percent.

The 33 power play goals was the lowest in franchise history, breaking the previous mark of 37 established in both 1972-73 and 1973-74, both 78-game seasons.

The 13.5 percent mark for the season was also the lowest in franchise history, breaking the old mark of 14.5 percent set in 1975-76.

It’s the first time in franchise history the Stars have had the worst power play in the league.

“Our power play certainly didn’t help us out. It could have got us a few more points, which could have made a difference,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “The power play has to improve, us coaches have to do a better job there.”

Excluding the lockout shortened 1994-95 season, the Stars 244 power play opportunities were the third lowest in franchise history. The Stars had only 207 in 1973-74 and 237 in 1972-73, both 78 game seasons.
The Dallas Stars’ quest for a playoff spot ended in Nashville on Thursday night. A 2-0 loss to the Predators mathematically eliminated the Stars from the playoff race.

The Stars now have missed the playoffs four straight seasons, the longest postseason drought in franchise history.

"It's frustrating, disappointing. It doesn’t get easier,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “You always want to win that last one and give our fans the opportunity to see playoff hockey again. They deserve it. Ever since Mr. [Tom] Gaglardi took over [as owner], they’ve been out to support us and root us on. It would have been nice to give them the opportunity to see some playoff hockey.”

Needing a win to keep their hopes alive, the Stars played the Predators to a scoreless tie through the first two periods. But Nashville got that key first goal with 15:32 left in the game when Patric Hornqvist came out from behind the net and put a shot on net and defenseman Francis Bouillon put the rebound past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

“Good things happen when you take it to the net,” Hornqvist said.

Hornqvist sealed the win for the Predators when he was able to get to the rebound of a Brandon Yip shot and give Nashville a 2-0 lead with just 2:00 left in the game.

The Stars pulled Lehtonen a short time later for the extra attacker and had a late power play but weren’t able to get a puck past Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who stopped 28 shots for his fifth shutout of the season and his league-best 43rd win.

"The guys did a great job,” Rinne said. “They had a good push there at the end but we did a really good job fiveonfive and on the penalty kill. It was just a solid game. We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary."

It was the second time in the past three games the Stars were shut out.

“It was a good hockey game; we just didn’t get the result we wanted,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We played hard, and I liked the way we competed. It was a one-goal hockey game, who could manage to get that one in, and they managed to do so.”

Nashville moved one point ahead of Detroit for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. The Stars, who have lost eight of their past 11 games, wrap up their season Saturday against St. Louis and then will have another long offseason.

“It’s tough,” Stars forward Steve Ott said. “It’s never fun and it’s the worst feeling for a professional hockey player.”

Notes: Fistric injured

*Stars defenseman Mark Fistric left the game in the second period with a groin injury and did not return.

*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play and are now 1-25 on the power play over the past eight games. For the season, the Stars are 30th in the league at 13.8 percent.

*The Stars did change things up on the power play, loading up the first unit with a four-forward look of Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, Michael Ryder and Mike Ribeiro, along with defenseman Stephane Robidas.

*Right wing Radek Dvorak returned to the lineup after missing the previous five games with an ankle injury.

*Scratches for the Stars were Jake Dowell, Tomas Vincour, Toby Petersen, Reilly Smith and Adam Pardy.

Postgame quotes

April, 5, 2012
Here are some postgame quotes after the Dallas Stars 2-0 lost to the Nashville Predators Thursday night, eliminating them from the playoff race.

Stars coach Glen Gulutzan

“It was a good hockey game; we just didn’t get the result we wanted. We played hard and I liked the way we competed. It was a one-goal hockey game, who could manage to get that one in, and they managed to do so.”

Stars captain Brenden Morrow

"It's frustrating, disappointing. Kind of a repeat of Groundhog Day of last year. It doesn’t get easier. You always want to win that last one and give our fans the opportunity to see playoff hockey again. They deserve it. Ever since Mr. Gaglardi took over (as owner) they’ve been out to support us and root us on. It would have been nice to give them the opportunity to see some playoff hockey.”

Stars forward Steve Ott

“It’s tough because obviously we’re out. It’s never fun and it’s the worst feeling for a professional hockey player.”
FRISCO -- The Dallas Stars no longer control their own destiny in the playoff race, but they are still alive and hope to keep the heat on the teams they are chasing.

That means the Stars need to win Thursday in Nashville and then hope that San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix don’t get enough points in their next game to eliminate Dallas, pushing the race down to the final day of the season on Saturday.

“If we get our points then and then Los Angeles, San Jose or Phoenix doesn’t on Thursday or Friday, then there is a lot of pressure on somebody the last day,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We’d like to put that pressure on somebody.”

But the Stars are going to need some help from others. After getting swept in by San Jose in a home-and-home series, the Stars no longer control their own destiny, so they best they can do is take care of their own business and watch and hope.

"We all know the situation. We've got to win two games to give ourselves a chance, and we need a little help," Gulutzan said. "If we take care of ourselves here, I think, it is going to come down to the last day and we are going to put somebody in a must-win situation. That's how we see it playing out. We're not going to focus too much of what somebody else has to do; we have to win, and that's pick up four points in the next two games."

And that was the message Wednesday in Frisco as the Stars prepared to head off to Nashville in yet another do-or-die game.

“We’re still in it, although it is a tougher road,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas. “We have to hope other teams lose, but we can’t quit now. We’ve played 80 games so far and we’ve put ourselves in the situation we’re in. We’ve just got to win our games.

Playing catch up in the playoff race

Here’s a look at how the Stars can catch each of the teams they are still chasing the Western Conference playoff race. The Stars would only need to tie each team in the standings since they would own the first tiebreaker, which is regulation/overtime wins.

Los Angeles: The Stars would have to win both their final two games and the Kings would have to lose both their two remaining games against San Jose in regulation.

Phoenix: The Stars would have to win both their final two games and the Coyotes would have to lose their two remaining games, which are at St. Louis (Friday) and at Minnesota (Saturday).

San Jose: There are two ways to catch the Sharks. The Stars would have to win both their final games and the Sharks would have lose their remaining two games against the Kings and at least one of those losses would have to be in regulation. The second scenario is that the Stars go 1-0-1 in their remaining two games and the Sharks lose both their games against the Kings in regulation.

DALLAS -- The opportunities were there for the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night, but the finish wasn’t. And now they are perilously close to being finished in the Western Conference playoff race after a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks at American Airlines Center.

“It stings,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “You’d like to be able to control your own fate. We had that tonight, we let it go and now we are going to need a lot of help.”

The loss left the Stars three points behind the eighth place Sharks, four points behind seventh place Phoenix and four points behind Pacific Division leading Los Angeles with two games remaining. The Stars will need to win both games and hope for at least one of those teams to falter.

“It’s going to be tough, but we just can’t quit,” said Morrow. “Stranger things have happened. We are going to need a lot of help, some people to do us some favors. “

The Stars, who have lost seven of their last ten games, didn’t do themselves any favors Tuesday night. They missed on a 57 second five-on-three power play with the game tied 1-1. San Jose scored the game-winning goal on the power play.

“They got their third goal on the power play, and that can be a big difference in the hockey game,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “We score on the five-on-three, and we’ve got a five-on-four after that and we get another one, maybe it’s a different game. But we didn’t.”

After going up 2-1 in the game in the second period, they allowed the Sharks to tie the game just 32 seconds later.

“It’s always the shift right after a goal you need a good shift, and we just didn’t get it,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “It got them right back in the game. We had no chance to build off that momentum of that goal.”

The Stars had a great chance to tie the game with a little more than five minutes, but Jamie Benn’s breakaway bid was turned away by Sharks goalie Antti Niemi. About 30 seconds later the Sharks scored to extend their lead to 4-2.

“We got to spring Jamie on a breakaway, but we were already in trouble at that point,” said Gulutzan. “It would have been nice, but there were a few things throughout the game that we could have done better.”

The Stars had the momentum early in the game, dominating play outshooting the Sharks 8-1 midway through the first period. But the Sharks got on the board 12:09 into the game when Daniel Winnik put a rebound past Kari Lehtonen, who appeared to be interfered with just before the puck went into the net.

The Stars answered late in the period when Brenden Morrow came out from behind the goal line and beat Niemi with a sharp angle backhand shot at the 17:47 mark.

The Stars had a big chance to take the lead when they had 57 seconds of five-on- three power play time that started late in the first and had 38 seconds remaining when the second period began. But they couldn’t get a shot on net, and then failed to take advantage of the remaining five-on-four time.

“We just didn’t execute,” said Gulutzan.

The Stars did take the lead at even strength at the 11:10 mark. Jamie Benn sent a pass from behind the goal line to Alex Goligoski, who beat Niemi with a shot from the point.

But the Sharks scored just 32 seconds later when Dominic Moore sent a puck from behind the goal line to T.J. Galiardi, who roofed a shot over Lehtonen.

“About two weeks ago we were talking about those. We call them bump-up goals,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “Right after you get scored on when you do, then you go out, win a draw, play in the other team’s end and get a big goal.”

The Sharks took the lead with a power play goal with 2:36 left in the second. Martin Havlat centered the puck from the right boards and Logan Couture redirected it past Lehtonen to make it a 3-2 game.

The Stars had a great chance to tie with just over five minutes remaining when Benn got a breakaway, but his backhand bid was stopped by Niemi.

“Huge, if he doesn’t make that it’s a different game,” said Sharks center Joe Thornton. “It’s a set play. We’ve seen him do it in the past. We just kind of fell asleep. He’s a world-class goalie and he makes that save. Saved our bacon again tonight.”

About 30 seconds later, Thornton scored off a wrist shot from the right circle to make it a 4-2 San Jose lead with 4:50 remaining in the game. Ryane Clowe added an empty net goal to make it a 5-2 final and give the Sharks the sweep of a crucial home-and-home series with the Stars.

“The two games against Dallas were the two biggest games of the year,” said McLellan. “We’re in a playoff series, we talked about that. When you can win back-to-back games in a playoff series – one at home and one on the road – you usually set yourself up pretty well. Very big, considering that four points went into our account and none went into theirs.”

And now the Stars will move onto play at Nashville, where they’ll need a win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

“You have to move forward and now we need help,” said Gulutzan. “You just start preparing and get ready for Nashville. It’s business as usual. There’s no other way to look at it. It’s business as usual. We’ve got to go win a game.”


*The Sharks won five of six games against the Stars this season. Not including the goal awarded for the shootout win, the Sharks outscored the Stars 25-10 in the season series.

*The Stars have two games remaining in the regular season. They play at Nashville Thursday and host St. Louis Saturday.

*The Stars are 0-11 on the power play over their last four games and 1-21 (4.8%) on the PP over the last seven games.

*The Stars have allowed six power play goals over the last five games and are 17-23 (73.9%) on the penalty kill during that stretch.

*Stars RW Radek Dvorak missed his fifth straight game with an ankle injury.

*Toby Petersen, Reilly Smith, Tom Wandell and Adam Pardy were healthy scratches for Dallas.

*Tuesday’s attendance was 18,584, a sellout.

Power (less) play hurts Stars' playoff hopes

April, 3, 2012
With the score tied near the end of the first period, the Dallas Stars had the opportunity they wanted to try to seize momentum and control of a must-win game against the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose was whistled for interference with 1:22 left in the period, giving the Stars a power play. And things got even better less than a minute later, when a hooking call on Brent Burns gave Dallas a two-man advantage.

At least it's supposed to be an advantage.

It certainly didn't appear that way. The Stars got one shot off on the 5-on-3 before the period ended, but it was blocked. The buzzer sounded with the Stars passing the puck instead of shooting, garnering a few boos from the sellout crowd of 18,584 at American Airlines Center.

"We didn't execute there," said a depressed-looking Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. "We didn't know the time left on the clock. With 19 seconds left we had a set play there, got a shot off, just didn't execute and lost a little traffic time."

But in between periods, the Stars had 17 minutes to dissect things and figure out a strategy. And they skated onto the ice hoping to apply it. But in the final 38 seconds of 5-on-3 time, they couldn't get a shot off. It's been an issue for most of the season and it was again Tuesday. Dallas did eventually take the lead in that second period, but only held it for 32 seconds. But it was that long power play that was a chance to send the Sharks a message and take some control, and the Stars couldn't do it.

"We had things set up, but we didn't execute," Gulutzan said.

The power play hasn't executed well in weeks. Dallas has three power-play goals in its last 13 games and is 1-for-22 in the last seven games. That's the reason the Stars are last in the NHL on the power play at a 14.1 percent success rate.

It's the why that is tough to figure out. Dallas has skill players like Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn that can make things happen. They have Brenden Morrow, who can crash the net. But the power play looks out of sorts. Sometimes it's too many passes looking for the perfect shot. Or it's missing an opportunity to make a crisp pass that can create something. Or it's not shooting enough pucks into traffic (and creating that traffic) and seeing what happens.

"My opinion, I think we're probably looking for that one extra pass trying to make an easy goal instead of just pounding them in there," Morrow said. "Not even pounding them in there, they don't have to be hard. Just get them in front of the net and scratch and claw and hack away. And then things open up from there. There's chaos at the net and that's when the plays happen. Sometimes it looks good and then we're holding the puck and making plays around the outside, but we're doing about the same thing and they ice it three or four times. If you're not getting pucks in the interior at the net, you're not really getting many opportunities."

Stephane Robidas agreed, saying it's time to make things simple on the power play.

"Sometimes when you start struggling, you try to complicate things, and I think you have to go back to basics and simplify things," Robidas said. "We have to shoot more pucks at the net, get some traffic and maybe not try to make the perfect play."

It may be too late now. The Stars are in a tough spot, needing to win the next two games -- on the road in Nashville on Thursday and at home against St. Louis on Saturday -- and then get some help.

The missed opportunities left the Stars dressing room a quiet one, with players knowing the playoffs are slipping away from them. They can place a big part of the blame on the power play.

Postgame quotes: 'It stings'

April, 3, 2012
Here are some postgame quotes following the Dallas Stars’ 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night.

Stars captain Brenden Morrow on the loss

“It stings. You’d like to be able to control your own fate. We had that tonight, we let it go and now we are going to need a lot of help.”

Stars coach Glen Gulutzan on where the game turned

“I thought the shift after the 2-1 goal, when we went up 2-1. We made a mistake with coverage. It’s always the shift right after a goal you need a good shift, and we just didn’t get it. It got them right back in the game. We had no chance to build off that momentum of that goal.”

Gulutzan on moving forward

“You have to move forward and now we need help. You just start preparing and get ready for Nashville. It’s business as usual. There’s no other way to look at it. It’s business as usual. We’ve got to go win a game.”

Gulutzan on the Stars missing on a five-on-three power play

“We didn’t execute there. With 19 seconds left (in the first period) we got a shot off, but just didn’t execute and we lost a little track of time. Going in between periods we had things set up, but we didn’t execute.”

Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas on special teams play

“You’ve got to score on the power play. That’s what they did. They got their third goal on the power play, and that can be a big difference in the hockey game. We score on the five-on-three, and we’ve got a five-on-four after that and we get another one, maybe it’s a different game. But we didn’t . Sometimes you can win games on your power play, but it didn’t happen tonight. “

Sharks coach Todd McLellan on sweeping the home-and-home series with the Stars

“The two games against Dallas were the two biggest games of the year. We’re in a playoff series, we talked about that. When you can win back-to-back games in a playoff series – one at home and one on the road – you usually set yourself up pretty well. Very big, considering that four points went into our account and none went into theirs.”

Sharks center Joe Thornton on Antti Niemi stopping Jamie Benn on a breakaway late in the game to keep the Sharks ahead by one goal

“Huge, if he doesn’t make that it’s a different game. It’s a set play. We’ve seen him do it in the past. We just kind of fell asleep. He’s a world-class goalie and he makes that save. Saved our bacon again tonight.”