Stars needed to align

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:58 PM ET


 Ahh ... Phoenix ... where, if time allows, hockey players get to hit the links.

 Nothing like a little relaxing fun in the sun to recharge. It's where the turning point came for the Dallas Stars.

 Except it came in a dressing-room meeting, not at a golf course.

 In mid-December, the Stars weren't just behind their pace of the previous year, they were struggling badly. Four games below .500 (11-15-3-0), Dallas' hockey heroes appeared on the verge of missing the playoffs.

 "At the beginning of the year, we just weren't there. Every time we stepped on the ice, it went wrong," said Pierre Turgeon.

 "It wasn't everybody. Some nights, the defence wasn't right and the forwards and Marty (Turco) were going well. Other nights, (the forwards) weren't pulling our weight."

 Clearing the air began a turnaround.

 "We started playing well, pulling in the same direction and getting confident," Turgeon said. "After a while, we'd get on the ice and say, 'All right, we know what we're doing out there.' "

 After that meeting, Dallas posted an incredible 30-11-10-2 mark and just fell short of catching San Jose in the Pacific Division.

 Still, they moved up enough to clinch fifth in the West and will meet Colorado starting tonight in a showdown of high-budget clubs.

 The Dallas struggles almost seemed surreal. They had top-flight forwards in Mike Modano, Bill Guerin, Jason Arnott, Jere Lehtinen, Brenden Morrow, Stu Barnes and Turgeon, and with an excellent goaltender in Turco, it always seemed a matter of time before the Stars would put it together. At least it did to everyone outside their dressing room.

 "Even if you've got veterans on the team, if you lose a lot of games early, you might not be in the playoffs," Turgeon said.

 "Lose too many early, you're going to have a tough time playing catch-up hockey.

 "It was soon enough we started playing well and got back on track."

 That's not to say the Stars don't have holes. Derian Hatcher leaving via free agency to Detroit was a big hit to the defence corps.

 Plus, they're limping into the post-season with a slew of injuries.

 Still, there's a feeling of unfinished business after last year's early demise in the post-season, going out in the second round against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

 "It was so disappointing in the fact Colorado lost and Detroit lost and we were in a good situation," Turgeon said. "Win that series with Anaheim and we had a good chance.

 "It was a big disappointment but we've turned the page."


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