Dallas Stars: Matt Duchene

Push for the playoffs

January, 30, 2012
FRISCO -- The Dallas Stars kick off the stretch drive when they head to California later this week for games against Anaheim and San Jose, and it will begin what they hope is a push to a place where they haven’t been the last three years – the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“This is our playoff push now,” said captain Brenden Morrow. “We’re going to be pushing from the get-go and we’ve got a pretty big hill to climb, but we’re all committed to do that in here. We’ve had meeting after meeting about what it is going to take and what you are willing to do. We feel like we are up to the challenge.”

The Stars come out of the break in 10th place in the Western Conference, three points out of the final playoff spot. If you go based on points percentage, they are in ninth place and a little closer to that final playoff spot. They sit in the middle of a group of six teams ranked 7th through 12th and separated by a total of six points.

“We still have our own fate in our own hands. We don’t need teams to beat them or teams to beat so and so. We can do it ourselves,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We play all the teams that are ahead of us. We can catch every one of them, we play head-to-head. That’s where you want to be. You want to have that in your hands. We have no excuses moving forward. We’re healthy, we’ve had a break and we got to regroup. We have to do a few things better – our power play and some D zone stuff – but I think our best hockey is coming.”

The Stars will need to play well to climb into a playoff position. History – at least history since the lockout – says that it will take anywhere from 91 to 97 points to get into the playoffs in the Western Conference. Since the lockout the 8th and final playoff spot in the West has gone to teams with point totals of 95, 96, 91, 91, 95 and 97.

At the All-Star break, the points pace for 8th in the West this season is 92 points. Time will tell if that stays steady or moves up or down, but Gulutzan doesn’t want to focus on some numerical goal for April.

“It’s a slippery slope if you get too focused on the amount of points. If you are not achieving them then you are falling off. You’ve got to live day-to-day in this game,” Gulutzan said. “We don’t want to start staring at the big picture, it can get overwhelming.

“Everybody is predicting how many points it will take, but who knows how many points it will take. Certainly it is going to be in the 90’s but where, I don’t know.”

Instead, he and his staff are looking at shorter-term objectives. The Stars want to make sure they are right in the thick of things when a grueling month of February comes to a close.

“We broke February into two segments within the 15 games before the trade deadline (Feb. 27),” Gulutzan said. “We have to be in striking distance at the end of this month. If not, then we’re going to be in trouble, but we feel we should be right in striking distance.”

During February the Stars also will play six games against the teams ranked 7th through 12th in the standings. Over their final 34 games, the Stars have three games against 9th place Minnesota and four games against 11th place Calgary, two teams right around them in the standings.

“Those are the teams were trying to catch,” Gulutzan said, “so more importantly we have to do well in those games.”

A look at the race for the final playoff spots

As teams come out of the break, it appears that the teams ranked 1-6 (Detroit, Vancouver, San Jose, St. Louis, Nashville and Chicago) have created some pretty good separation from the rest of the West. Those teams have anywhere from 64 to 67 points, except for San Jose. The Sharks have 60, but have played fewer games than anyone in the conference and are in a solid spot.

For now, it appears, that would leave six teams – Los Angeles, Minnesota, Colorado, Dallas, Calgary, Phoenix – battling it out for those final two spots in the West.

There’s a long way to go and things can change. One of the teams in the top six could slip back, one of the teams currently fighting for those final two spots could go on a roll and create some separation from the others, or somebody could fade away.

Here’s a look at the team’s currently ranked 7th through 12th that appear to be battling for the final two spots for the time being.

7. Los Angeles Kings

Record: 24-16-10 (58 points)
Regulation/OT Wins: 20
Games Remaining: 32 (12 home, 20 road)
Back-to-backs: 7
Head-to-head with 7th-12th: 8 games – Minnesota (2), Colorado (1), Dallas (1), Calgary (2), Phoenix (2)
Completed season series with 7th-12th: None
Key injuries: F Simon Gagne (concussion) out indefinitely

Outlook: The Kings host Columbus in their first game out of the break and then head out on a six-game road trip (St. Louis, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida, NY Islanders, Dallas). The Kings play 10 of their 14 games in February and 20 of their final 32 games on the road, where they have posted a solid 11-5-6 mark so far this season.

8. Minnesota Wild

Record: 24-18-7 (55 points)
Regulation/OT wins: 19
Games remaining: 33 (19 home, 14 road)
Back-to-backs: 4
Head-to-head with 7th-12th: 12 games – Los Angeles (2), Colorado (3), Dallas (3), Calgary (2), Phoenix (2)
Completed season series with 7th-12th: None
Key injuries: F Mikko Koivu (shoulder) has resumed skating. F Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) is skating. F Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) out indefinitely.

Outlook: The Wild hit the break on a positive note, winning two straight following a dismal 17-game stretch where they went 2-11-4. The Wild play 19 of their final 33 games at home, where they have posted a solid 13-6-3 record so far this season. Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse are skating and will be a boost to the Wild’s offense when they return.

9. Colorado Avalanche

Record: 26-23-2 (54 points)
Regulation/OT Wins: 19
Games Remaining: 31 (15 home, 16 road)
Back-to-backs: 3
Head-to-head with 7th-12th: 7 games – Los Angeles (1), Minnesota (3), Calgary (2), Phoenix (1)
Completed season series with 7th-12th: Dallas (Won five points to four points)
Key injuries: F Matt Duchene (knee) is out indefinitely.

Outlook: The Avalanche have 15 home games to 16 road games and only three back-to-backs the rest of the way, but 12 of their final 31 games are within the Northwest Division, against which they are 2-10-0 so far this season. Forward Matt Duchene may be at least a couple weeks away from returning from his knee injury.

10. Dallas Stars

Record: 25-21-2 (52 points)
Regulation/OT Wins: 22
Games Remaining: 34 (16 home, 18 road)
Back-to-backs: 6
Head-to-head with 7th-12th: 11 games – Los Angeles (1), Minnesota (3), Calgary (4), Phoenix (3)
Completed season series with 7th-12th: Colorado (Lost four points to five points)
Key injuries: F Brenden Morrow (neck) will return after break.

Outlook: The Stars will be as healthy as a team can be at this time of the season and will have a full lineup for the first time in a long time. February will be a key month for the Stars. They play 16 games in 29 days, including four back-to-backs. They are 0-7-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

11. Calgary Flames

Record: 23-21-6 (52 points)
Regulation/OT Wins: 21
Games Remaining: 32 (19 home, 13 road)
Back-to-backs: 4
Head-to-head with 7th-12th: 14 games – Los Angeles (2), Minnesota (2), Colorado (2), Dallas (4), Phoenix (4)
Completed season series with 7th-12th: None
Key injuries: F Matt Stajan (ankle) and G Henrik Karlsson (knee) are day-to-day. F Curtis Glencross (MCL) expected to return late February/ early March. F David Moss (ankle) is out indefinitely.

Outlook: The Flames play 19 of their final 32 games at home, where they are 13-7-2 this season and 14 of their 32 games left come against teams ranked 7th through 12th in the Western Conference.

12. Phoenix Coyotes

Record: 22-20-8 (52 points)
Regulation/OT Wins: 20
Games Remaining: 32 (18 home, 14 road)
Back-to-backs: 3
Head-to-head with 7th-12th: 12 games – Los Angeles (2), Minnesota (2), Colorado (1), Dallas (3), Calgary (4)
Completed season series with 7th-12th: None
Key injuries: D Derek Morris (lower body) is day-to-day.

Outlook: Five of the Coyote’s first six games out of the break and 18 of their final 32 games are at home, but they have been a lackluster 10-9-4 at Jobing.com Arena this season. They are in pretty good shape on the injury-front coming out of the break.

Stars-Avalanche Photos

November, 5, 2011
Here are some photos from last night's Dallas Stars-Colorado Avalanche game. You can see all the photos by Shannon Byrne here or by clicking below on the photo of Mike Ribeiro and Matt Duchene.

#63 Mike Ribeiro battles with #9 Matt Duchene.Dallas Stars vs. Colorado Avalanche November 4, 2011

Stars win a wild one

November, 5, 2011

DALLAS – It was no surprise that the Dallas Stars-Colorado Avalanche game was decided by one goal. The number of goals was a different matter. Loui Eriksson’s second goal of the night was the 13th scored in the game and it gave the Stars a 7-6 overtime victory at American Airlines Center Friday night.

With Jamie Benn crashing the net, Eriksson sent the puck towards the goal and in bounced in off Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson with 1:05 left in overtime.

“I saw [Benn] at the side of the net. I don't know if it hit someone, but it went in,” Eriksson said. “There were a lot of goals out there today. We stuck with it and got the two points.”

Eriksson’s goal capped off what was an entertaining game for fans and a somewhat unsettling for the guys coaching the teams.

"It was one of those nights you don't like as a coach, but if you came to the game tonight and watched it from your seat, you got your money's worth,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.

Seven different Stars had multi-point nights on Friday with Eriksson (two goals, one assist), Stephane Robidas (one goal, two assists), Benn (three assists) and Michael Ryder (three assists) leading the point parade. Colorado’s Matt Duchene had a four-point night (three goals, one assist).

"Who says goal scoring is down, right? You get a game like this every once in a while,” said Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray, who had one goal and one assist in the game. “It's probably going to be a long night for the coaches, looking at video.”

The Stars fell behind 2-0, then led 4-2, then trailed 5-4 and 6-5 before tying the game with 4:10 remaining and forcing the overtime.

“We were resilient, we stuck with it tonight, we played right until the very end and we were fortunate to get the win in overtime,” said Souray. “We'll take the points, but we'll regroup and get ready for our next game on Sunday."

The Stars, who hadn’t played since Saturday, got off to a sluggish start, getting outscored 2-0 and outshot 13-3 in the first 20 minutes. Goals by Jay McClement and Duchene gave Colorado the early lead.

"I think we're going to chalk this one up to a little bit of rust,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “We had a little bit of a break, we practiced with pace, we think we did all the right things but it was pretty sloppy out there.”

The Stars dodged another bullet early in the second when Colorado had some good chances on a power play to open the period, but the Stars were able to kill it off. The Stars tied it at 2-2 on power play goals by Loui Eriksson and Sheldon Souray.

Colorado had a chance to take the lead after a Dallas turnover, but Kari Lehtonen made consecutive big stops on Gabriel Landeskog and Daniel Winnik to keep the scored tied. Moments later Michael Ryder set up Vernon Fiddler, who scored from the left circle to put the Stars up 3-2 with 4:39 left in the second. Less than two minutes later the Stars were up 4-2 when Alex Goligoski scored from the left point for the Stars’ third power play goal of the period.

"The power play was good. It was shots with somebody in front. It was a pretty simple thing,” Gulutzan said of the power play, which ended the night 3-6. “I think once we watch that maybe we can learn from it a little, just getting shots with net presence.”

But the Avalanche scored just 43 seconds later when Duchene picked off a clearing attempt to the corner and beat Lehtonen with a shot from the bottom of the right circle. Just 43 seconds after that Paul Stastny banked a shot in off Lehtonen from behind the goal line and the game was tied with 1:32 left in the second.

Colorado took the lead back early in the third when Winnik banged home a rebound at the 1:57 mark to give the Avalanche a 5-4 lead.

The Stars tied it again, scoring just as their fifth power play chance of the game expired. Eric Nystrom scored on a rebound at the 6:01 mark to make it a 5-5 game.

Colorado answered with a power play goal when Duchene made a great move to slip by Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas and beat Lehtonen from close range to make it a 6-5 game with 11:28 remaining.

The Stars knotted the game at 6-6 with 4:10 remaining when Stephane Robidas scored on a shot from the right point with Jamie Benn setting a screen in front of Varlamov.


*The Stars improved to 9-3-0 overall and to 6-1-0 at home.

*Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray scored his 100th career goal in the game.

*Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler dropped the puck prior to the game.

*Defenseman Mark Fistric and forward Tom Wandell were healthy scratches for the Stars. Steve Ott missed the game with a hip injury.

*Friday’s attendance at the AAC was 11,981