The Stars will embark on a four-game, western Canada road trip beginning Tuesday at the MTS Center in Winnipeg.
This trip is more than just Winnipeg. Following tonight’s tilt, the Stars travel to Calgary, Edmonton and then Vancouver. The quartet combine for a record of 23-26, aided heavily by Edmonton’s hot 9-3 start.
This trip, which began with a 4-3 OT loss in Chicago on Sunday, is not about records. The focus for the Stars over the next four games is finding themselves.
Decimated by injuries, the Stars are a shell of their former self. Jasson Spezza is back on the injury list and Ales Hemsky joins Mattias Janmark with season-ending surgery.
Patrick Sharp is still out with a concussion, and the situation was so dire that defenseman Patrick Nemeth played wing on the fourth line Sunday.
Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and whoever else is healthy enough to suit up cannot focus on who is not in the lineup. Instead, the focus for this lineup should be finding a style of hockey that works for this group. It won’t be the speed game that led Dallas a division crown last season.
The type of hockey this version of the Dallas Stars must play is the same type they used in a 6-2 in over St. Louis - grinding, physical, tenacious.
Dallas must win the 50-50 puck battle. Defenders need to clear the zone. Wingers have to get the puck out. Pucks have to be sent on net, and forwards need to crash the crease.
Is it pretty? Not in the least bit. Is it effective? You bet.
That is taking nothing away from the guys who have stepped in and played very well. Gemel Smith has been a great addition, and netted his first goals of his career Sunday in Chicago. Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie are familiar faces and Adam Cracknell adds grit and size.
No disrespect, but Smith is not Sharp. Cracknell is not Janmark. McKenzie is not Cody Eakin. And they can’t try to be. Dallas needs to be who they are, which at the moment is a 4-5-3 hockey club that sits at No. 8 in the Western Conference.
Which, considering the injuries, is really an achievement in itself at this point.
The next four games are vital to the early-season run. Are they winnable games? Of course. The Stars, though, will need to roll up their sleeves and take care of businesses as they did last week against St. Louis.
If so, Dallas has a chance to stay afloat until the band is put back together.