2014 NHL Schedule: Dallas Stars Resume Season With Swing Through Canada
After the All-Star break, the Dallas Stars go on a three game road trip through Canada.
Luckily, the winter storm Juno isn't going to keep the Dallas Stars out of Ottawa even if travel along the northeast is nearly impossible right now.
The Stars will resume the season now that the All-Star break is done with a three game road trip through Canada. Two of the games come against Eastern Conference opponents and one will come against a Central Division foe.
The games versus the Montreal Canadiens tonight and Ottawa Senators on Thursday are chances for the Stars to earn 'free' points, as they don't come against Western teams they're fighting for playoff positioning with. They'll need to win them just to keep pace with the rest of the West, who currently sport a combined 57% points percentage versus the East.
It's not exactly the domination that the West enjoyed over the East last year, but it's still better than the Stars' current 53% points percentage versus the East. They are 2-4-0 versus teams in the Atlantic and 6-3-1 versus teams in the Metropolitan.
Here's some story lines we'll be watching on this road trip.
Can the Stars beat one of the best in the East?
Montreal is one of the best teams in the East, sitting in 3rd place in the Atlantic with 65 points in 45 games. They are backstopped by one of the top goaltenders in the league this season. Carey Price has a .929 save percentage, which is the 5th highest in the league. They allow just 2.15 goals against, and play a tight defensive game.
We've seen the Stars struggle against a slower paced game where they cannot enter the zone easily; the Canadiens will present quite a challenge for Dallas.
Can Jason Spezza help power the Stars' power play?
The game versus the Senators sees Jason Spezza return to the city he was traded from. The former Senators captain will most likely receive a mixed reception; some will boo, and some will recognize it was time for the two to go their separate ways and will thank him for being the good company man for as long as he was.
Spezza is third on the Stars in scoring with 8 goals and 26 assists. Nearly half of his assists have come on the power play, but he only has one power play goal so far this season. Only Tyler Seguin has more points on a Stars power play that on many nights is still looking for the power source. He's riding a four game point streak going into tonight's game versus Montreal. Will he continue that, and can he help the Stars power play down the stretch to a win and earn two much needed points over his old team?
Can the Stars improve their Central division record?
Dallas sits 11 points behind Winnipeg, and the first meeting between the two was a terrible 5-2 loss on home ice for the Stars. They got beat on home ice a second time 2-1 in a game where the bounces didn't go their way and they won in basically every category except the one that counts -- the goals scored.
The Stars have had recent success in Canada, so maybe traveling there is the right way to get their Central division play turned in the right direction. As of today, the Stars are a dismal 3-9-5 against their own division. It's the singularly worst record against their own division in the league behind only the Edmonton Oilers, who has won just two games in regulation versus their Pacific division opponents.
That kind of record isn't going to cut it if the Stars want to make the playoffs this season. Divisional play will need to be much better down the stretch.
Will Tyler Seguin hit 50 goals this season?
Tyler Seguin is on pace for a 90+ point campaign, which includes a pace to hit 50 goals in the season. Dallas hasn't had a 50 goal scorer since Mike Modano in the 1993-1994 season. He needs just 22 goals in 36 games remaining (not too much to ask for right?) to achieve this lofty achievement. That's 0.6 goals per game left in the season, so to remain on pace he'll need to net about two goals in the next week.
If he were able to get there, the Stars might even have a player in conversation for some big hardware in Las Vegas in June -- Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies interest anyone?