The Dallas Stars are hoping for a deep playoff run, and rumors were aswirl that General Manager Jim Nill was seriously pursuing a deal to land a premier defenseman to help make that a stronger possibility.
Meanwhile, back on the frozen pond, Coach Lindy Ruff’s skaters remain near the top of the Western Conference standings to ensure they will enjoy the home ice advantage in the post-season.
Or would that be home ice disadvantage?
Ironically, while the Stars have improved their play over what we called a “Sloppy New Year” recently to go 6-1-1 on the road in February, Dallas still managed to lose three straight at home, including a 6-3 verdict to Winnipeg on Feb. 25 and a 3-2 gut kick to the New York Rangers on Feb. 27.
“I think we’re an offensive team and we know we can score,” said veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya after the loss to the Broadway Blueshirts, which included a disallowed goal by Jason Spezza in the third period. “We’re not giving up too much going (offensively), still being responsible coming back (defensively as a team). It’s a mindset, and I think when we (have that mindset) we play pretty well. It’s tough to give up a late goal but we know we’re good enough and we just have to keep working at it.”
Tied 2-2 with New York late in the 3rd period after an equalizing goal by Valerie Nichushkin, the Stars allowed the Rangers to reclaim the lead just over a minute later, just 2:53 from overtime and (at least) a standings point.
However, the Stars claimed they took something positive from their fourth loss in their last five games at American Airlines Center. “We didn’t give up six (goals, which they did two nights earlier in a 6-3 loss to the Jets),” said forward Colton Sceviour. “That was a big focus, to keep chances (low), keeping a third guy high and playing better defensively as a group. I think we definitely took a step in the right direction that way. There are definitely some things we can shore up a little bit here and there; but (this game was) definitely a step in the right direction in that regard.”
Oduya insisted that his team just needs to continue doing the “little things” as a team, and defensive improve will occur in time for the post-season. “Like I said, it’s tough losing a game, but we’re going to try to see the positive things and move forward,” the veteran noted.
A minute after the Rangers took a 2-1 lead in the third period, center Jason Spezza’s shot during a scramble slid across the goal line and underneath New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The referee didn’t rule that a goal had been scored, the play went to video review, and after a lengthy examination, it was ruled “no goal” because the video evidence was inconclusive.
The Stars hope to close out their three-game home stand Monday against Detroit by continuing their recent improvement.
A victory would help justify their desire to be successful in the fast-approaching Stanley Cup Playoffs on the big ice in Big D.