Down to the Wire
Stars Focused on Finishing Season Strong
Tuesday, 03.4.2008 / 3:50 PM CT / Feature
By Dallas Stars Staff
The Dallas Stars are one of the hottest teams in the league right now, winning 13 of the last 16 games. Unfortunately for them, two teams are just as, if not more, hot than the Stars and they happen to both be in the Pacific Division.
The Anaheim Ducks are 10-1 in their last 11 games while the San Jose Sharks have won six in a row. Both squads won big games at home against some of the top teams in the East on Monday evening, chipping away at Dallas’ lead in the division.
But while the Stars do watch the standings on a daily basis, they are more concerned with their own play and winning the only games they can control – their own.
“We know that if we take care of our own business, everything else will take care of itself,” said Brenden Morrow. We’re playing some desperate teams right now and we like to raise our intensity and our desperation levels too. These teams we are playing like Phoenix, Vancouver and Nashville are fighting for a playoff spot. But we are fighting for home ice and winning the division. There are things we need to focus on too like taking care of our game and winning the games we can control."
The Stars control their own destiny, as they will play the final eight games of the season against all of the teams in the Pacific. All of the games will be big and should make for an interesting stretch run.
"If you look at the overall points, three of the top five or six teams in the league are in one division,” said Head Coach Dave Tippett. “We have games against them, we are battling for position with them, and we better make sure our game is in order. You look at both of those teams (Anaheim and San Jose) and they look like they are building right now. We need to continue to build our group."
Dallas has played 69 games on the season - the most in the Western Conference. Anaheim and San Jose can pull closer by winning their games in-hand, but it probably will still come down to the head-to-head match-ups.
"The standings have been tight from start to finish, and the teams that can string it together the longest will come on top," said Mike Modano. "We are going to get caught up in games played here soon. It's important that we take care of those games until we are all evened out in that situation. It may come down to the very last games. We have our work cut out for us. We’ve held up our own lately but we have to continue to win."
The Stars have been red-hot since the All-Star Break but Tippett is quick to point out that they haven’t clinched anything yet. The focus is on continuing to play well and hit the post-season on a high note.
"I would rather be going in making sure you play well on the way in,” he said. “I think you carry your momentum into the playoffs. Let's not get ahead of ourselves; we haven't made anything yet. Let's put things in perspective here. This is all well and good, and everybody's talking about playoffs. We are still along ways away from playoffs."
Dallas hosts Phoenix on Wednesday (7:30 pm, FSN, WBAP). Get tickets here.
The Stars recalled center Toby Petersen from the Iowa Stars on Tuesday. Petersen has 21 goals and 51 points this season, leading Iowa in scoring in 63 games. He has 155 games of NHL experience and adds some depth to the Stars’ roster.
"When Jokinen and Halpern were traded, those were two guys who could play center for us,” Tippett said. “We are looking to adding another depth player that can play center for us. We want to get Petersen integrated with our team. He has been arguably their best player in Iowa so now he'll come and spend the rest of the year with us and make sure he's ready."
Tippett said Tuesday that defenseman Matt Niskanen might return on Wednesday vs. Phoenix.
"He looked pretty good today, so we'll see," Tippett said. "There is an old saying, ‘You can play hurt but you can't play injured.’ When you get injured you’ve got to take the time to heal and then move forward. It's not going to be the last injury he has because he's going to have a long career. We have to make sure he’s ready."
Mike Ribeiro (elbow) and Brad Richards (ill) both did not skate with the team on Tuesday but are expected to play on Wednesday.
"Ribeiro skated earlier and he'll be fine. It looks like he will be good,” Tippett said. “I think both he and Richards will be players (Wednesday)."
Sergei Zubov continues to rehab his foot and still is shooting for a return to skating in a couple of weeks.