Stars Sweep Home, Looking for More
Monday, 02.04.2008 / 4:43 PM / Feature
By Dallas Stars Staff
The Stars swept a three-game set through western Canada last week, marking the first time Dallas had done that since December of 2001. Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary are all difficult places to win on the road. Yet the Stars found a way and came home with six points in their back pocket.
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“This was a great trip, plain and simple,” said Steve Ott. “We needed it and it feels good to come out with three wins in three games.”
The trip was key in many ways. Currently leading the Pacific Division with 67 points, Dallas is two points ahead of San Jose and six points in front of Anaheim. But San Jose has four games in-hand on both teams (for a potential of eight points). With just 26 games left in the season, points are as valuable as ever.
Another key point in the season was reached at the end of this trip. It completes a long stretch that saw the Stars play 20 of 34 games on the road. Now Dallas closes the season with 15 of its final 26 games at home, including six of the next nine contests.
Marty Turco was simply spectacular on the trip, combining to stop 92-of-97 shots for a save percentage of .948 and a goals-against-average of 1.67. His effort earned him one of the “Three Stars of the Week” honors from the NHL. He was clearly Dallas’ number one star on the trip.
“Marty has done a great job for us,” said Stars Head Coach Dave Tippett. “We have a pretty young back end right now and there are going to be hiccups. Marty is cleaning up a lot of the mistakes and giving us a chance to win.”
Turco’s three wins improved his record against teams north of the border to 43-11-3.
“It’s a lot of fun to play up here,” Turco said after the win in Calgary. “Being a Canadian, there is something special about playing in front of these great crowds, especially on a Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada.”
Special teams also told much of the story in going 3-0-0 on the trip, especially on the penalty kill. Dallas was perfect on the road trip, stopping all 18 shorthanded situations, including going 7-for-7 in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Calgary.
“Special teams are very important and we stepped up on this trip,” said Tippett. “Special teams is all about hard work. Having (Jere) Lehtinen back in the lineup gave us a big lift.”
Lehtinen returned to game action on Friday in Edmonton after missing 33 games due to sports hernia surgery. He jumped right back in, playing over 18 minutes and picking up an assist.
“We’re happy to have him back, that’s for sure,” said Brenden Morrow. “Lehts is an important player for us and he simply makes us a better team.”
Dallas is hoping for more good news on the injury front soon, but it is undetermined when defensemen Sergei Zubov and Philippe Boucher will be back. Zubov is still listed as week-to-week while Boucher has begun skating but has not started to shoot the puck or anything on the ice with his shoulder.
Tuesday marks the first return to Dallas by the Vancouver Canucks since the teams’ seven-game playoff series last April. (Get Tickets) Vancouver is in the middle of a four-game trip and is struggling a bit. The Canucks are 2-7-2 in their last 11 games.
“We have to bring a high-intensity level to the game on Tuesday,” said Tippett. “We played very hard on the road and now we have to bring that same competitive spirit here at home. We’ve always been a very good home team and we want to continue that.”
Tippett said that he expects Turco to start in net for the Stars on Tuesday.
Did you know?
Niklas Hagman is tied for second in the league in game-winning goals with six. He had the game-winner in Calgary with his 19th tally of the season. Hagman is on pace to score 28 goals. He has already set a new career-high in goals, passing his 17 from last season.