If the Dallas Stars are going to get back into the Stanley Cup race, they need to do it one game at a time, starting tonight. But can they bring it against the Boston Bruins, who just punched their playoffs ticket in the Atlantic Division?
Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News reviewed the team’s disastrous recent road trip and found signs of hope:
For their lack of success on the road, the Stars were fighting to the end. They lost by one at Washington, gave up an empty-net goal in Winnipeg, and took overtime losses in Ottawa and Toronto. So maybe getting home, getting a better matchup and getting more players involved could be just the formula to push them back into the winning column.
”We had such great energy in the last four games and such great efforts throughout the hockey club, you feel like throughout the process that it is going to turn your way,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “What changes is the time of year.”
In other words, the biggest problem with the current losing streak is that it comes at the worst possible time:
“If we were playing like this and it was the middle of the season, we’d be very happy knowing that the wheel is going to turn, because it does,” Hitchcock said. “But now, with the shortness of what is left in the season, it kind of magnifies everything. You don’t want to take away the energy, enthusiasm and hard play that is going on right now, that has to be rewarded. But at the end of the day, we know we need wins.”
There’s more at Mike’s place. [SportsDayDFW]
How much of the Stars’ recent swoon is on their leadership? Heika discussed Jamie Benn’s performance as captain, where Kari Lehtonen and Ben Bishop excel as a goalie tandem, the Julius Honka question, and more in these excerpts from his Monday chat.
Mark Stepneski is on the job with the Stars-Bruins official preview. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m. CDT – and for your (legal) viewing convenience, the match is tonight’s free game on NHL.tv.
Mark also brought some injury updates for Jason Spezza, Brett Ritchie and Marc Methot, as well as news on Dillon Heatherington’s possible return to the lineup.
Spezza (back) will be evaluated in two weeks. So he is out for awhile.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 22, 2018
Ritchie back in tomorrow.
Methot (hand) practiced full today, could play tomorrow. If not, Heatherington will play.
You don’t often see local sports news in the opinion section – but Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center shared his thanks for the team’s opposition to the Texas bathroom bill in the DMN’s front section.
Around the League(s)
Killed By #Death
- The Nashville Predators got mugged by the Toronto Maple Leafs in their own house. Auston Matthews scored a goal in his return from injury as the Leafs took a 5-2 decision. [Pension Plan Puppets]
- The Chicago Blackhawks helped the Vancouver Canucks break a seven-game losing streak. Alexander Edler scored twice during the Nucks’ 5-2 in United Center. [Nucks Misconduct]
- And the Colorado Avalanche dropped a scorcher to the Los Angeles Kings, 7-1. Captain Anze Kopitar scored four goals for the Joe Thornton hat trick. [Jewels From The Crown]
Take a look at that fourth goal, because it’s a beauty.
The Kings’ victory moves them out of the wild-card race and into the top three in the Pacific Division.
Kings beat the Avalanche 7-1 and move into third spot in the Pacific Division. Ducks drop to the second wild-card spot, so the Stars are now four points out of the final playoff spot with eight games to go. pic.twitter.com/SRdIvPDduP— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 23, 2018
Here’s a look at the whole Western Conference race, in handy chart form:
Western Conference Playoff Race (Games Ending 3/22) pic.twitter.com/7flKYIwrQW— Damian Echevarrieta (@Ech28) March 23, 2018
The biggest news of last night may have come during an intermission: NHL on NBC analyst Eddie Olczyk announced that he is cancer-free after undergoing treatment for stage 3 colon cancer. [NHL]
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Avs forward Mikko Rantanen racked up a milestone of his own: He’s joined Olli Jokinen, Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne as the fourth Finnish player in NHL history to record an 80-point season. [theScore]
The Eastern Conference is still playing, too, sort of. Josh Wegman warns that the Florida Panthers aren’t maximizing a games-in-hand advantage in the wild-card race.
Good news for Winnipeg Jets fans: Patrik Laine’s lower-body injury isn’t a break, and he could be back as early as next week. The Rocket Richard Trophy contender hurt his left foot while blocking a shot during the Jets’ win over the Kings on Tuesday.
Greetings From Scenic Cedar Park
The Texas Stars have announced the signing of Robbie Payne to an amateur tryout agreement. The senior forward helped lead the Northern Michigan Wildcats to the 2018 Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Postseason Tournament final, where they fell to the Michigan Tech Huskies.
T-Stars players and mascot Ringo visited Dell Children’s Hospital yesterday, and there were the usual smiles all around.
This 92-year-old fan is doing it right. Lois Webb brought homemade cookies and a letter of encouragement to the Stars’ Thursday practice, and Antoine Roussel was so touched that he thanked her in person. Enjoy.