The Dallas Stars have been in an every-game-is-big mentality for some time now, but they've faced no bigger game this season than this Tuesday’s tilt against San Jose at American Airlines Center.
“It’s a do-or-die mentality,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “It’s got to be there.”
They’ll enter the game one point behind the eighth-place Sharks with three games left. A loss would be a devastating blow. A win, and there’s life.
“Our fate is in our own hands, still, and at this juncture of the season that is what you have to focus on,” Gulutzan said. “We don’t need someone to beat somebody else, we just need to win our last three games.”
Those last three games won’t be easy tilts. Three good teams. All with something to play for as well. The Sharks, like the Stars, are in a dogfight just to make the playoffs.
The Nashville Predators, whom the Stars visit Thursday, are in a three-way battle for the fourth seed in the West and home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
The St. Louis Blues, who come to Dallas on Saturday, are vying for the top spot in the West and home ice advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
“We’ve been doing it the hard way all year and we’re kind of in that spot right now. It’s nice to go back home, but we’ve got our work cut out,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “It’s three tough teams, (San Jose) is a tough team to play, they’re hungry, they know what’s at stake and it doesn’t get any easier from there.”
The Sharks have won four of five from the Stars this season and their 3-0 win Saturday was a convincing victory. But three of their wins over the Stars came with Dallas playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and the Stars will now have a couple of days to rest up and get ready for the rematch.
“It’s a must-win,” Morrow said. “I don’t know the exact mathematical equation or what needs to be done, but it’s probably three wins or nothing for us. It’s nice to be able to get them again while the blood’s hot a little bit, get a little redemption, but if we do the same thing we did (Saturday night), we’re not going to have the success we want.”
“You just got to bounce back, learn from what we did wrong,” Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. “It’s a good team and but it’s a team we know we can beat. Sometimes when things don’t go well, you try to complicate things and that’s the wrong thing to do. You’ve got to simplify them.”
And the simple fact is the Stars, who have lost three of their last four games and six of their last nine, have to win Tuesday.