Stakes are high as Stars take on Sharks

FRISCO, Texas -- Tuesday’s game between the Dallas Stars and the San Jose Sharks is big. There are only so many ways you can say it, but the Stars found a variety of ways to sum it up after Monday’s practice in Frisco.

“It’s our biggest game for sure,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We’ve said for a long time that every game is big, but this game either puts us in the driver’s seat or it takes us out of it. It’s a huge game.”

“It’s as big of a do-or-die as you’re going to find,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “There’s been a lot of history with these two teams in the past, and we're both scratching and clawing to get to the postseason, so there is a lot on the line tomorrow night.”

“We have our chance to control our destiny,” Stars forward Steve Ott said. “That’s the biggest thing we can take out of tomorrow night. The chance is in our hands. We need to find a way to grab big points. We knew it was going to be tight two months ago, and the reality now is we have a chance to control it.”

The Stars and Sharks enter the game separated by one point in the Western Conference. The Sharks currently sit in the eighth and final playoff spot. The Stars are in ninth place. Tuesday’s winner is in a playoff spot with two games remaining. The loser faces an uphill climb. How big a climb will depend on whether the loss is in regulation or in overtime or is a shootout. And how many points Phoenix picks up Tuesday night against Columbus will be key as well. But however it happens, a loss would be a big blow.

For the Stars, though, the path to success is pretty simple. With three games left there are six points available to them. Get those six points and they are in the playoffs.

“If you look at the standings, everything is in our control. At this point, with three games left, that’s all you can ask, is to have control,” Gulutzan said. “You’ve got to win the games to get in, so it’s just nice to know that if we do, then we control our own destiny.”

But to maintain control of that destiny they’ll need to beat the Sharks, who won game one of the home-and-home series 3-0 Saturday night in San Jose. The Sharks scored 58 seconds into the game and had a 2-0 lead by the first intermission. The Stars see a strong start as key Tuesday night.

“There’s going to be a lot of focus on that first shift, that first ten minutes like they did in their rink,” Morrow said. “They came at us hard in 10-12 minutes, and we’ve got to focus on that start.”

The Sharks have won four of five against the Stars, but three of those wins, including Saturday’s, came with the Stars playing on the second night of a back-to-back, not exactly their strong suit this season. The Stars are hoping a couple of days between games will bring a different result.

“The rest is obviously key,” Ott said. “We played a highly emotional game in Vancouver, it was a highly emotional road trip and then you go into San Jose, and our back-to-back record has been terrible all year. That’s obviously a cause of concern in the last game, but to have that extra rest and let the emotions settle and to come in with an energized team again, I truthfully think it will make a big difference.”

It has to, or the Stars will no longer control their destiny.