The Dallas Stars are 9-3-1 in their last thirteen games and have been able to crawl out of the basement of the Western conference standings. Unfortunately, the Stars are just 2-2-0 over their last four games and have dropped from fifth to seventh overnight. They've also lost a good bit of the points advantage and games in hand they had built up over those below them (although they still rest in 5th place in points percentage). Although the Stars haven't seen a drop off in effort they still find themselves sitting on the precipice of looking up at the rest of the Western conference from below once again.
Taking a look at the current standings it becomes apparent just how important the next five games are for the Stars.
Over the next week, the Stars will face Vancouver, Edmonton, Columbus and will play Chicago twice. Three of these are at home. Dallas is currently nine points back of Chicago for fourth place but even more importantly rest just three points out of ninth. Conceivably, if the Stars lose just two games of the next five then the Stars will be fighting uphill once again for a playoff spot.
Remember what we said last week about all of those games in hand? They don't matter a bit if you don't take advantage and win those extra games. For the next week, playing good and winning most of the games won't cut it. The Stars need to face each game as if the season hangs in the balance. They need to show that killer instinct they showed while winning seven of eight games, outscoring opponents 14 - 3 during that stretch.
What the Stars also need to realize is that this is not just about survival and hanging onto a playoff spot. The Stars have the opportunity to open a considerable lead on those below them as well as start to track down the Blackhawks in fourth spot. If the Stars are able to win both games against Chicago, that's a four point swing in the Stars' favor on a nine point deficit.
Thanks to a dismal start to the season, Dallas has absolutely zero wiggle room when it comes to spacing in the playoffs race. The good news is that the Stars also have a prime opportunity to pull away from the pack.