Dallas Stars Upcoming Schedule Provides Make Or Break Scenario

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 7: Mattias Janmark #13, Joel Hanley #39, Roman Polak #45 and the Dallas Stars celebrate a goal against the San Jose Sharks at the American Airlines Center on December 7, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 7: Mattias Janmark #13, Joel Hanley #39, Roman Polak #45 and the Dallas Stars celebrate a goal against the San Jose Sharks at the American Airlines Center on December 7, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It’s no secret that the Dallas Stars are a good team when playing on home ice. Playing on the road is a different story, though, as they showed over the past seven weeks. But with their upcoming schedule being home-heavy, it’s a chance to either get back into the fight or fall out for good.

The Dallas Stars have not picked up a point in the standings since Friday, Dec. 7. Considering today is Dec. 17, that’s a cause for concern.

Not picking up any points in a 10-day span is a dangerous game to play, but becomes even more dangerous when you do it in the midst of a jam-packed playoff race. And that’s where the Stars were: sitting pretty in the middle of wild card standings.

But an 0-4-0 record over one week can carry some pretty negative consequences, including removal from said playoff position. As a result, Dallas was bumped out of the playoff picture and shifted towards the bottom of the playoff race as a whole.

It’s crazy to think of just how much damage a week’s worth of games can do to a hockey team, especially after they won four in a row just prior to it. And yet, here the Stars sit: 35 points in 33 games and four points from the final wild card spot, which is currently held by the surging Edmonton Oilers.

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There’s never an easy challenge in the NHL, and the Dallas Stars just underwent one that could end up making or breaking their season. Since Oct. 28, the Stars have played a total of 24 games. That’s 24 games in 49 days, which is already a daunting enough task in regards to longevity and energy.

To add on to the task, 17 of the games happened outside of the American Airlines Center. Only seven games happened on home ice, where the Stars have a dominant record. In their 17 various trips throughout the six week journey, Dallas experienced various highs and lows. By the end of it, they were 11-10-3 throughout the stretch and managed to keep themselves afloat in the absence of various players.

But for every away game there is a home contest waiting, and that gives way to the Stars’ schedule over the next few weeks.

Between now and Feb. 1, 2019, the Dallas Stars will play 13 of their 18 contests on home ice. That should bode well for a team that boasts one of the best home records in the NHL (10-3-1) at the moment. But this isn’t about their dominant home record; this is about cashing in on what has quickly become a make-or-break scenario for the team.

It’s hard to imagine a team sitting at a 16-13-3 record near the midway point of the season being in a make-or-break situation, but that’s where they are at right now. The West is heating up, the Stars are outside of the playoff picture, and they need to hit a turnaround before it’s too late. What better time to find that turnaround than playing a lot of home hockey?

Over the next seven weeks, the Stars will welcome a mass of various teams to the AAC. Four hail from the Central division (Chicago, St. Louis, Winnipeg, Minnesota), two come from the Pacific (Calgary and Los Angeles), and seven come from the Eastern Conference (New York Islanders, Detroit, Montreal, New Jersey, Washington, Tampa Bay, Buffalo).

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The schedule provides a good mixture of competition and talent, giving Dallas a chance to measure themselves up against some of the better teams across the league.

It should also help them both in finding their identity and figuring out their playoff legitimacy. By Feb. 1, most teams have a good grasp on whether or not their season will extend past game 82. Now, the 2017-18 Dallas Stars are a unique exception. But, more often than not, the writing is on the wall by February.

That’s why this stretch is so critical. If the Stars can continue playing strong and consistent hockey on home ice and keep up a solid pace, they should have the ability to catapult themselves back into the playoff picture. But if they continue to struggle under this current losing skid, they could find themselves falling further behind the rest of the pack. That’s not a spot that any team wants to be in, especially in the Western Conference.

They should receive some help along the way with the returns of John Klingberg, Connor Carrick, and possibly even Stephen Johns and Marc Methot. But, even in their absence, the Stars have to continue answering the call.

It all starts with five of their next seven at home to close out the 2018 calendar year. The losing skid provides a gut check and canceled out all of the progress Dallas had made to begin the month. Now, the challenge revolves around bouncing back and moving back up the standings.

Stars Cannot Let Losing Streak Define Their Season. dark. Next

That challenge begins on Tuesday night against the Pacific-leading Calgary Flames. It’s time for the Dallas Stars to shape up or ship out. Let’s see which way they go.