DALLAS—By splitting the two games at Xcel Energy Center earlier this week, the Dallas Stars, who now lead their best-of-7 first-round playoff series with the Minnesota Wild 3-1 after a win on Wednesday in the Twin Cities, deserved a day off.
So that’s what they got from Stars head coach Lindy Ruff yesterday. Due to Wednesday’s game not starting until 8:30 PM CT, Dallas didn’t leave Minnesota until Thursday morning and once the players deplaned their charter flight at Dallas Love Field, they had the rest of the day off.
Veteran winger Patrick Eaves, who has two goals and three points in the series, agreed that’s a good thing. “Yeah, we need to be with our families. I think that’s important too, get away from the rink. Yeah, we’re going to do our best to do that,” Eaves said.
Dallas, who hasn’t won a playoff series since 2008, when they beat the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals, has a chance to close out the Wild in Game 5 at American Airlines Center tonight.
But Stars captain Jamie Benn, who leads Dallas with six points (four assists) in the series but has never won a playoff series, knows it’s never easy to put a final nail in an opponent’s coffin to advance in the postseason. “It’s not going to be easy. The last game’s always the hardest to win,” Benn said. “They’re a hard-working team. I’m sure they’ll be ready to go again tomorrow.”
Ruff will hold a morning skate today, albeit 30 minutes later than for a normal home game (at 10:45 AM instead of at 10:15) in advance of Game 5. And with the Stars having Thursday completely off, Benn and company should be a well-rested bunch once they hit the AAC ice on Friday morning. “Yeah, it’s always nice [to have an off day],” Stars winger Ales Hemsky said. “You kind of get in that routine [during the season], every second day [off], so you get used to it. It was a kind of short flight [from Minnesota], now we got a day to rest and just focus for tomorrow, so that’s always nice.”
Dallas will be without top-line center Tyler Seguin once again for Game 5. On Thursday Ruff labeled Seguin, who has missed all but Game 2 when he showed considerable rust after missing the previous 11 games recovering from surgery to repair a partially-cut Achilles, as out.
In that 2008 series against the hated Sharks, the Stars needed three chances to close out San Jose after taking a 3-0 lead in the series. But former Shark and current Stars defenseman Jason Demers definitely doesn’t want to see a repeat of that scenario in the 2016 playoffs. “We’ve got to win this game, we don’t want to go back there [to Minnesota],” Demers said. “Their crowd gave them a lot of energy, and we want to come back here and feed off our crowd and close this out.”