FRISCO -- The NHL schedule can present a variety of challenges over the course of a long season. Among those challenges is that first game back home after a long road trip. It's a game that can often have the hometown guys struggling.
It’s an issue the Stars have discussed and one they are trying to address as they get ready to take on the Anaheim Ducks after their five-game road trip that took them from California to New York over a nine-day span.
“It’s talked about and it’s something that people take a look at a little bit deeper,” said Stars forward Steve Ott. “You come off a hard road trip and you’ve laid it on the line in hard buildings, played hard and sometimes it is a big sigh of relief to finally get home and unwind. And sometimes you can be a little bit beat up or tired. Sometimes it takes a little bit extra to get going again.”
When a team is on the road, hockey is the focus. Come home after the long trip, and some of life’s other priorities are back on the agenda.
“The moment you come home and its’ the kids are getting you up and you are in family mode,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “It’s a transition state. Then all of a sudden you’ve got to go back to play again and you are not really in that hockey mode.”
The last time the Stars returned after a long road trip that first game at home didn’t go well. Truth be told, it was pretty ugly. After a trip that took them to North Carolina, Washington, Pittsburgh and Detroit, they returned home and lost 6-0 to the Florida Panthers.
“We got spanked and hopefully we’ve learned from that,” said Ott. “They’ve looked at what we did prior to that game. What we did at practice, how long was our day. They are trying to conserve energy for us and make sure that we’ll have the best chance in our first game on the homestand.”
Gulutzan and his staff keep a log of everything the team does every day. They’ve looked at how they handled things coming off that four-game trip and heading into the Florida game.
“We looked back at it and we didn’t do anything we did the last time,” Gulutzan said with a chuckle. “We changed our practice routine from what we did when we got back from Detroit and we just want to try to get us mentally back into the game.”
Gulutzan will also make some changes to the game day routine. The team will hold its morning skate at the team’s practice facility in Frisco Monday morning instead of American Airlines Center, where the team usually skates prior to a home game.
“That’s just so some guys don’t have to deal with the traffic of going down to the American Airlines Center,” Gulutzan said. “That will maximize an extra hour of rest for some guys. Then we’ll go play that game.”
And while Gulutzan and his staff are looking for ways to maximize energy for that first game of a three-game homestand, Ott believes there a couple of other factors that could give the Stars a shot of energy.
“It’s Christmastime. It’s an exciting time. It’s easy to find energy, to grab energy,” said Ott. “We know that we’ve got to come into a building that’s probably going to be a little bit more full than it has been in a lot of games this season and there’s going to be instant energy and other ways to find it.”
Injury updates: Burish feeling ready, but questionable for Monday
Stars forward Adam Burish, who has been out since the middle of November with a broken hand, practiced with the team on Sunday and said he feels ready to return. But when he’ll return is still up in the air.
“I think I’m ready to go,” Burish said after Sunday’s practice. “Kind of go day-by-day now but I feel 100 percent.”
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan wasn’t ready to say if Burish would be ready to even be a game-day decision on Monday.
"I wouldn't feel confident right now to comment [on his status]. Bur looked pretty good in my mind out there, but we've got to see where he's at. I don't know that yet,” Gulutzan said. “We're going to have the same protocol as we've had with all of our players, we're not putting them in there until they are game ready and they can help us."
Defenseman Philip Larsen is day-to-day with a quad contusion. Larsen, who was injured in Friday’s game at New Jersey, did not practice Sunday.
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen (groin) skated about 45 minutes prior to practice in Frisco Sunday. He is expected to return sometime after Christmas.