Tomas Fleischmann, Kari Lehtonen

Stars schedule presents ample opportunity for prolonged losing streaks

With the 2011-12 season rapidly approaching, the gang at PHT decided to take a look at all 30 NHL teams’ schedules. Each team’s highs and lows will be studied in detail to give you an idea of what the future might hold for each squad.

Note: Mileage figures via On the Forecheck’s “Super Schedule.”

Dallas Stars schedule analysis

Total mileage: 49,622 (5th most in NHL, but only 3rd most in the Pacific Division)

Back-to-back games: 14

Toughest stretches
The Stars have three separate spans that will test whether the team is worthy of the playoffs this season. From November 6 – November 12, the Stars travel to Carolina, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. The second test is the toughest road-trip of the season in December. Between December 8 – December 16, the Stars will see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans on the same road trip. Three games in four nights against the New York area teams will be a tough way to wrap up the trip. Finally, Dallas finishes the season with five of their last seven games away from home. If they’re in the midst of a playoff battle, they’ll have to prove they can win on the road if they want a spot in the postseason.

Easiest periods

Whether the Stars repeat their quick start of last season or falter out of the gate, they’ll have a vitally important stretch from November 11 through December 3 that they will need to take advantage of. Seven of the ten games are at the American Airlines Center; just as importantly, just about all of the games are against teams that are projected to struggle next season. They’ll get dates with the Panthers, Oilers, Islanders, Senators, Coyotes, Maple Leafs, and a pair against the Avalanche. They need to win—they need to win a lot.

Overall outlook

Only in the Pacific Division can a team be forced to travel the fifth most miles in the league, yet still have two other teams in the same division with tougher schedules. The good thing is they don’t have any prolonged road trips that some teams will have to deal with. The bad part is they have a quite a few potential rough patches scattered throughout the season that could pose problems. No matter what they do—they better get off to a good start and have some wiggle room by the end of March. If they are in a position where they need to gain ground over the last two weeks of the season, it’ll be an uphill battle.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.