It's good to go on vacation with a win in your pocket, but it pays to watch the road ahead. The Dallas Stars say goodbye to a rough January with a clear eye on what they must do to lock down that playoff spot that still seems so assured.
First off, Alex Goligoski takes a brief moment to enjoy the view from the loftiest spot this Stars team has ever seen:
"Standings-wise, we're looking good," said defenseman Alex Goligoski. "It's a spot that we, as a team, haven't been this high, so I feel good about where we're at. We'll have a little break here, and 30-some games left, and we'll go from there...It's keep working on things. It's a process."
Jason Spezza reminds his teammates that they already know how to win:
"It's important to know we had a bad month, but it is also important to know we are a good team, and we know how we play when we have success," said center Jason Spezza. "We're in a good position. Things could be a lot worse. Teams go through ups and downs, and the natural thing is to kind of split hairs a little bit. I think we just need to take a deep breath and go back to the way we were playing at the beginning of the year."
Lindy Ruff's advice to his players is to just take the break – relax, clear their minds and come back re-energized.
"I want them to step away for three to four days...just totally step away. You want them to take care of themselves because you get them for an hour the Monday before you play Tuesday, so it's all in the players' hands," Ruff said. "The message was completely remove yourself from the game and totally decompress. Clear your mind and we'll approach the last 30 games as a new season."
There's much, much more at Mark Stepneski's blog. [Stars Inside Edge]
More from Mike Heika's Monday chat: To another plaintive question about Loui Eriksson, Heika suggests that the Boston Bruins will never, ever, ever let the Stars have him and Tyler Seguin at the same time unless Loui goes to free agency, so he may as well be saying there's a chance. (Go ahead, Stars fans. Feel those feelings.) [SportsDayDFW]
And Matt Pryor takes a look at the trade-deadline options Jim Nill might consider as the Stars eye a playoff run. [The Hockey Writers]
Not everyone is on break for All-Star Weekend yet, not even its hosts. Last night in the prison yard:
- Shea Weber scored the game winner and Carter Hutton made 26 saves as the Nashville Predators defeated the Calgary Flames 2-1. [On the Forecheck]
- And two goals from Gabriel Landeskog helped the Colorado Avalanche shock the Los Angeles Kings with a 4-3 comeback win in the Staples Center. [Sports Illustrated]
Did Flames blueliner Dennis Wideman intentionally cross-check linesman Don Henderson on the way to the bench last night? An apology has been made, but the league may get involved.
Arpon Basu continues with his lists of the NHL's all-time best fantasy 3-on-3 lines – take a look at the former Stars who made the '90s roster.
In addition, a lower-body injury to forward Alex Ovechkin will keep the Great 8 out of Sunday's All-Star Game. [NHL]
At least D-man Karl Alzner set a new franchise record for consecutive games played (and got this awesome souvenir).
The All-Star Game is even less fun for goalies than for every other player. [Sportsnet]
The Minnesota Wild and the New York Islanders have joined up with the You Can Play Project to raise awareness for "equality, respect, and safety for athletes regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity." The Isles will host a You Can Play night Feb. 2, 2016; $5 from each ticket sold will benefit You Can Play. [theScore]
After the huge career achievements Joe Thornton and Roberto Luongo celebrated this week, Jared Clinton makes a list of the next big milestones to watch for, starring Marian Hossa, Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, Jaromir Jagr and Pavel Datsyuk. [The Hockey News]
Anaheim Ducks defender Clayton Stoner has been fined $10,000 and gotten a three-year ban from hunting after pleading guilty to killing a grizzly bear without a license in British Columbia. [Huffington Post Canada]
The Texas Stars turned in a full-team effort, punctuated by Maxime Lagace's first career shutout, to take over second place in the Pacific Division with a 3-0 home win against the San Jose Barracuda.
Finally: You already know Antoine Roussel loves cats. It looks as if cats love him back. Check out this feline superfan sporting his very own Rooster shirsey.