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Stars Face Difficult Stretch as NHL Schedule Picks Up

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Up until this week the Dallas Stars enjoyed a sparse schedule with lengthy breaks and only three man games lost to injury. They've had off periods of 4 days, 4 days, 3 days, 3 days, 2 days,  and 2 days, but Tuesday's game against Anaheim at home started a stretch of eight games in 14 days including four games in six nights next week, three of which are on the road with significant travel to Canada, back to Dallas and then to St. Louis on a back to back.

It's a challenge they've not faced yet. They're 1-2 on road back-to-backs and were famously flattened in Colorado in a "third game in four nights" scenario. For a team that has not won a road game since October 21st, it could be a daunting task, but there is another side of the coin the Stars are taking advantage of.

When the schedule came out Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck compiled a list of how many back to backs teams play, but also how many opponents on the second half of a back to back they play as well. He found that while the Stars play 12 back-to-backs, they get tired teams on the second half of their back-to-backs 17 times. Being on the positive side of that number could be a big deal for the Stars this season who, let's face it, could use all the help they can get in their playoff push. They must take advantage of it.

They've played three of those 17 opponents now, with the fourth coming on Saturday when Colorado will follow a Friday night game in Dallas. The Stars had the Kings at home on a back-to-back and lost 5-2 on October 28th. They had a tired Sabres team at home on October 30th and won. They beat the Sharks last night. So far so good with a 2-1 record in these games that at least off-sets their own 1-2 record on back-to-backs.

They need to continue to take advantage of this bit of good fortune that's been handed to them over the course of the season. No one likes to use playing on consecutive nights as an excuse but the reality of the situation is that it's tough and no one likes to do it.

In the mean time it will be interesting to see this team in action on a more regular basis. Will decrease in practice time negatively affect their execution? Can Kari Lehtonen continue his good health as things pick up? Can Andrew Raycroft, who will necessarily be called upon more often in the coming weeks contribute and win some games?

We've all been looking forward to more hockey to watch after these long breaks. How will the Stars do with more hockey to play? With things picking up and four of their next six on the road, we will soon know much more about this team than we know now.