The Dallas Stars have an opportunity to shake off their recent demi-swoon with what promises to be a fast, physical and contentious home-and-away series with the Winnipeg Jets that begins tonight. The Central Division rivals will open the series at 7 p.m. Central time in MTS Centre, then put the D in #MDK at American Airlines Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Mike Heika writes that this is an ideal opportunity for the Stars to practice their intensity for the season's home stretch and the playoffs run that seems all but certain:
It is one of only two times this year the Stars will play consecutive games against the same opponent, and when Dallas faced St. Louis in this situation back in December, the competition was revved up.
"That was a good test right there, as close as you get to a playoff series in the regular season," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. "That's the same here, where I think you have two teams who are really going to play hard, intense hockey and then one game builds on the other."
The Stars know they need to make the most of the fortuitous scheduling that essentially allows them a playoffs practice run against a divisional opponent:
"We're down into the stretch where there is a lot of desperation inside of games, and our desperation has to exceed their's," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.
"You can simulate it as much as you want. It's not the real deal until it's the real deal," said Spezza, one of several veterans who has tons of playoff experience with other teams. "Experience is important, but there's also experience with this team in trying to be the best team we can be. We're all new in that regard. I like our team. I think we've actually played better against good teams. I think if you look at our record when games are more intense, we're pretty good. To me, that's a good sign."
Read the entire thing at Mike's blog. [SportsDayDFW]
Learn more about the intricate work that goes into the Stars' peerless in-game entertainment with this in-depth article from the filmmaking website PremiumBeat. [The Beat]
Players like Antoine Roussel, one of two French born hockey players in the NHL, hosts Cinema of Antoine, in which he jokingly reviews classic French films. The Stars also have two goaltenders from Finland. Together they speak in the native tongue in Words With Finns. The goal is to get fans to guess what they are saying. Most recently the players said (in Finnish): "Words with Friends isn't that popular anymore, but this is a great pun."
Mark Stepneski gives a preview of this week's home-and-away, as well as a report on the illness that kept Patrick Eaves out of Monday practice. [Stars Inside Edge]
From the Dallas Stars Foundation: The Stars and the Mavericks officially launch their new 50/50 raffles for charity this weekend in the AAC. The raffles will be offered at every home game for the rest of their respective seasons. [Dallas Stars]
As the Stars try to process their last three losses, they're falling back to regroup on team defense, says Mike Heika. [SportsDayDFW]
Just look what Razor has discovered. Look at it.
The Virgin Galactic looks like an 80s goalie mask. pic.twitter.com/daQwNL1raG— Daryl Reaugh (@Razor5Hole) February 20, 2016
Last night in the #MDK:
- The Nashville Predators conquered their overtime blues with the help of a Craig Smith shootout goal in their win over the Montreal Canadiens. [On the Forecheck]
- And multi-point games from four players, including four points for Joe Thornton alone, allowed the San Jose Sharks to run roughshod over the St. Louis Blues 6-3 in Scottrade Center. [NHL]
Has the NHL Stadium Series run its course? The ESPN roundtable returned from the Wild-Blackhawks game wondering whether so-so performances and the same few teams every year have sucked the life out of the concept. [ESPN]
Meanwhile, Dan Steinberg suggests that people who are too savvy to enjoy the Washington Capitals' regular-season performance may just not be cut out for this whole sports-fan thing. (Try to read this all the way through without swapping "Caps" for "Stars" even once, because a dollar says you can't.) [Washington Post]
The Habs can't catch a break with a butterfly net. Yesterday's disaster: Defender Tom Gilbert will miss the rest of the season due to knee surgery. [Sportsnet]
And the Blues' IR merry-go-round keeps spinning: Goalie Jake Allen returns on the night Brian Elliott goes out with a lower-body injury, and now their second leading scorer, Alexander Steen, is out for four weeks with an upper-body injury.
Meanwhile, St. Louis has other troubles: namely, a hit by RW Ryan Reaves that knocked Sharks blueliner Matt Tennyson out cold and earned Reaves a match penalty (and maybe a suspension, too).
The Sharks are looking ahead to the playoffs, acquiring Roman Polak and Nick Spaling from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Raffi Torres and their 2017 and 2018 second-round picks. [San Jose Mercury News]
In KHL news, SKA St. Petersburg head coach Sergei Zubov has given captain Ilya Kovalchuk a one-game time-out after the team's loss to Lokomotiv in the first game of the Gagarin Cup playoffs.
Wonder what Therrien would say about Kovalchuk's play:https://t.co/PiW67OZdhj— Jason Brough (@JasonPHT) February 22, 2016
Ken Campbell thinks there may be a way to discourage NHL teams from tanking late in the season. [The Hockey News]
Meanwhile, defrostin' for Auston is exactly what the Leafs are not doing, swears Chris Johnston, and he sounds so certain you almost have to believe him. [Sportsnet]
Finally: Yesterday marked the 36th anniversary of the USA vs. USSR semifinal game at the 1980 Winter Olympics that went down in American sports history as the Miracle on Ice. USA Today celebrated by bringing back Al Michaels' play-by-play of the final minute, which itself has gone down in history as one of the greatest sports calls of all time. [USA Today]