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Previewing a Challenging Dallas Stars December

November was kind to the Dallas Stars. They went 8-4-1(.654) in November, climbing the standings with a late four game win streak and look poised to fight in the "thick of things" in the Western Conference. Unfortunately the page now turns to December and a peek at what is to come can be quite daunting, starting with the 17-6-2 Capitals tomorrow night.

The more "favorable" matchups with low-seeded Eastern Conference teams have all but dried up (Carolina at home in December is the only one) and Dallas must now face a beefier Western schedule that includes two trips to Columbus and two meetings with the unstoppable Red Wings, both of which come on the second night of back to backs.

Dallas faces only two teams with a losing record (Calgary and Carolina) all month. Last year they enjoyed a 6-3-4 December, putting them into good position to compete as they entered January. Unfortunately we all remember what happened next. This year December is by far their busiest month with 16 games, and it's a critical hinge upon which the season season swings. After all, the finish line looks a lot closer on the other side of Christmas.

What to look for in December...

9 home, 7 road games.

Toughest stretch: Back-to-back @ Columbus then @ Detroit (less than 24 hours later) followed by a good Canadiens team two days later to round out three games in four nights.

Back to backs: 3. One in Phoenix, one in Detroit, one at home with Detroit.

Most winnable games: By the numbers you'd probably have to say Calgary at home (Dec. 23rd), Phoenix at home (Dec. 26th), Minnesota at home (Dec. 4th) and Carolina at home (Dec. 10th.)

Busiest stretch: 4 games in 6 nights. Dec. 26th-31st.

Good home crowds: Expect sell-outs (or something close to it) tomorrow with the Capitals, Montreal on the 21st, the 29th against the Red Wings, and New Years Eve with the Canuckles.

Only one late night: 9:30pm CST @ San Jose on the 13th.

No Mo: Modano's wrist injury means he'll miss DET's other trip here, and opening night was possibly his last at American Airlines Center. (Until the Wings and Stars meet in April, #1 vs #8, right? right?)

Short trips: 16 contests, but the longest road trip is only two games.