The Dallas Stars struggled in January, to say the least. Against Eastern Conference foes. Against statistically lesser competition. Against non-playoff teams. On the road, where they've lost their last eleven (!!) games.
Against almost exclusively playoff-caliber teams. Against nine Central opponents, including an absolutely brutal stretch over their next five games. Including eight more on the road, starting tonight in Winnipeg and Thursday in Colorado.
To say it's not getting any easier would be a bit of an understatement. The Stars, with the target still on their back despite nearly six weeks of drop-off in their play, face a ruthless gauntlet of those who would eagerly see them sink to where they were last spring. In the West, anything is possible.
"We've been in this position before where you are fighting for a spot," Ruff told media Monday. "We are going to play teams that are right on the bubble that can be in one day and out the next. You are going to hear this is a playoff atmosphere, a playoff type game."
Against the Jets and Avalanche you might not hear that. Against the Blackhawks on Saturday, and the Blackhawks next Thursday, and against the Wild on Tuesday... Well, yes, those are playoff games.
When last the Stars met the Jets, as was so often the case in 2016 to date, their offense faltered as they managed just one goal on 24 shots while Winnipeg enjoyed 33 shots on Kari Lehtonen's net.
Over their last 10 road games stretching over nearly two entire months the Stars have surrendered an average of exactly 4.0 goal per outing- Including six goal indulgences against the Rangers, Islanders, and Blue Jackets.
Over that same ten-game stretch they've allowed nine power play goals while just three.
Offense, defense, goaltending, special teams- The Stars have not been good on the road with any regularity since November when they recorded six straight wins away from American Airlines Center.
Jordie Benn looks probable to return from his injury aided by the extended off-time. A starter in net is difficult to prognosticate- Though choices by the coaching staff down the stretch in January seemed to indicate that Antti Niemi had clearly claimed the "#1" spot.
In Winnipeg's last game before the break they were dominating in defeating Arizona 5-2, including a power play goal, a flawless penalty kill, and a 37 shot effort against a Dave Tippett coached team, plus a shortanded goal. An all-around Coyotke-kicking.
Their lineup tonight, or something like it would be-
From Stars PR:
GROWING UP IN A PRAIRIE TOWN
The Dallas Stars take on the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night in the third of five meetings during the 2015-16 season. In the most recent matchup of the season series on Jan. 7 at American Airlines Center, the Stars defeated the Jets, 2-1, in a shootout with the game-deciding goal coming from forward Tyler Seguin (1-0=1). The Stars have registered wins (2-1-1) in three of their last four games against the Jets, as well as wins in three of their last five matchups (3-2-0) played in Winnipeg. Dallas holds an all-time road record of 8-3-1 against the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise.
SEGS N BACON
Dallas forward Tyler Seguin ranks third in the NHL with 53 points (25-28=53) and shares fourth in the NHL with 25 goals this season. Seguin recorded a goal (1-0=1) and the game-deciding tally in shootout during the most recent matchup against Winnipeg on Jan. 7 at American Airlines Center. The Brampton, Ont., native enters Tuesday's contest with points in seven of his last eight games (6-7=13) against Winnipeg and has tallied points in six of his last seven games (6-8=14) against the Jets on the road, including two four-point outings (2-2=4). The forward has appeared in 20 games against the Winnipeg franchise in his NHL career and has recorded 21 points (10-11=21).
SHARP DRESSED MAN
Stars forward Patrick Sharp recorded an assist (0-1=1) in the Stars most recent game against Calgary on Jan. 25 and now has points in three of his last four matchups (0-3=3). Sharp currently shares third on the club with 40 points (16-24=40) and shares first on the team with five game-winning goals this season. He has registered points in four straight games playing the Jets, recording four points (1-3=4) over that span, and has posted points (4-4=8) in seven of eight career games against the franchise on the road. The native of Thunder Bay, Ont. has points (3-1=4) in all four career games played in Winnipeg. In 22 career games against the Jets/Thrashers, he has tallied 16 points (6-10=16)