Like every NHL team, the Dallas Stars are trying to make the final week before the Olympic break a winning one. To accomplish that goal, they will have to end their struggles away from home.
With Mike Ribeiro expected to return, the Stars open a three-game road trip Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, who are trying to avoid a season-high third consecutive home defeat.
The Stars (26-21-11) are three points behind eighth-place Nashville in the Western Conference entering the final three games before the league's two-week hiatus for the Vancouver Olympics.
Hurting Dallas' playoff hopes is a 2-12-3 road mark since Thanksgiving. The Stars have been outscored 67-35 in those contests.
At home on Saturday, Marty Turco made 34 saves to earn his third shutout of the season and Jamie Benn backed him with two goals as Dallas beat Phoenix 4-0 to head out on the road with some positive momentum.
"(This road trip) is huge," forward Brenden Morrow told the team's official Web site. "We haven't had much success on the road, and we've got a good feeling coming off a real good effort here at home."
The Stars may get some extra inspiration from the return of Ribeiro, who is expected to play for the first time since suffering a scary injury Jan. 6. The center was accidentally struck in the throat by the stick of the Rangers' Christoper Higgins and spent several days in a New York hospital following a tracheotomy.
Stars coach Marc Crawford said Ribeiro will play "sparingly" Tuesday. Crawford also won't have Steve Ott (emergency appendectomy) or defenseman Mark Fistric (knee surgery) until after the Olympic break, which runs Feb. 15-28.
Ott scored the go-ahead goal Dec. 29 in a 5-4 home win over the Blackhawks. He and Ribeiro each have two goals and an assist this season against Chicago, helping Dallas take a 2-0 lead in the season series.
That's a sharp contrast to 2008-09, when the Blackhawks swept four meetings with the Stars while outscoring them 20-8.
Patrick Kane has been instrumental to Chicago's success against Dallas, with six goals and four assists in the last six matchups between the teams.
The Blackhawks come into this matchups slumping offensively, though, having failed to exceed two goals in their last four games. They totaled three goals in a pair of home losses last week to St. Louis and Phoenix.
"Sometimes you go through these slumps, but I think we're okay," Kane told the team's official Web site. "In times like these, it feels like you can never score, but there are other times where you feel like if you don't score four or five goals a game, you're not living up to your standards. ... The one thing we don't want to do is go into the break with a couple more losses under our belt."
Chicago (38-15-5) avoided adding to its season-high three-game overall slide Saturday night, winning 2-1 in St. Louis. Making his first start in two weeks, Antti Niemi stopped 34 shots and gave up the lone goal on a 5-on-3 power play with 1:46 remaining.