By Kris Smith
The Kitmart Dundee Stars continue their fight for survival in the playoff race with a triple header of away games this weekend.
The Stars face Glasgow Clan on Friday night and are still searching for their first win at the Intu Braehead Arena this season.
The only time Dundee beat the Clan in this campaign was in the first tie between the two Scottish sides in the Challenge Cup back in September. Since then Glasgow have won the last six meetings.
Dundee come into the weekend, hungry for points after being starved from any as controversial calls have gone against them in the last few games. A 4-1 loss in Nottingham last Saturday was followed by a 4-2 defeat at home to Manchester Storm.
However, the good news for Stars was that their injury troubles had cleared up and defenceman, Connor Cox returned to action last weekend.
Meanwhile the Clan have not played for a full week since their 5-4 loss in Belfast to the Giants. Just like Dundee, Peter Russell’s men have lost their last two matches.
Craig Peacock was the only Clan member missing from the line-up for the trip to Belfast. Third place Glasgow are 15 points clear of Dundee in 10th.
The seven previous matches have seen the Clan net 31 goals compared to the Stars 15. However, the Stars can take confidence into the weekend with a few players on point streaks. The pick of the bunch is Jordan Cownie who has racked-up five points over the last four games.
Dundee Stars head coach, Omar Pacha knows how important every remaining game is and he said: “We know the importance of every single game now, there is seven games left and we have to make sure we are ready and prepared for every single game and to push the pace.
“We have been struggling in certain areas like scoring goals and that is maybe something to focus on as we want to score more now.
“We need to score at least two or three a game and we have been struggling in the department.”
The Canadian’s side have battled huge amounts of adversity in the last few weeks but he believes his players motivation to keep going is high.
Pacha added: “It has been hard over the last five or six games, we have been very unlucky with decisions and obviously a lot of controversy in the last few games that directly affected the result.
“We have to make sure we stay focused, we can’t get that down.
“We had a good meeting early in the week to try and clean the slate and just look at these last seven games as the biggest in our playoff push and our last stretch.
“There is motivation, I think guys know that we are still in a good position but we just have to win some hockey games.
“A big thing too, we need to get back to our special teams, our powerplay needs to find a spark.
“We have changed the units and some of the lines as well and hopefully that will gives us that spark.
“Sometimes when you change things up, it gives guys that boost of energy and a fresh start.”
A difficult first test against the Clan lies in wait for Dundee and Pacha knows his side will need to be firing on all cylinders.
He said: “Glasgow are a really good team, they have been hot recently and have a lot of firepower upfront.
“I think as a team, we need to grind out, make sure we play solid defensively and generate a bit more offensively.
“We are getting chances but we are obviously not clinical enough.
“I think we have to be grittier around their net and we have to crash and bang them in, you seen against Coventry, our four goals were all around the net and our two goals that we scored against Manchester were also right in front of the goal.
“We need to get back to that, we are not a team right now that scoring comes really easily to, so we have to really work to get our breaks and we are not a team that will score five, six or seven goals a game.
“We don’t have that power since losing (François) Bouchard but we can score three or four and that comes from capitalising on opportunities in front of the net.”
Stars forward, Fabrizio Ricci remains confident ahead of the last stretch of games.
He said: “We are feeling great about it, the last push is a great opportunity to gain some points in the standings and keep the playoff push alive.”
The Ontario native also knows the importance of not letting up or losing focus in the dying moments of the game.
Ricci added: “I think we have to play an overall 60-minute game, we can’t play 50 or 55 minutes because those minutes we become the most vulnerable and affects us negatively on the scoreboard.”
Stars will need to play some of their best hockey of the season, which we have seen glimpses of during their winning runs, if they are to finally win in Glasgow.
Fabrizio continued: “We need to stick to the system, play hard like we have been and play a strong sound 60 minute hockey game that we know we are capable of doing like we’ve done in the past against the best teams in the league.”
On Saturday, Stars will head south for an battle with the Guildford Flames at the Spectrum Arena before travelling back-up to Nottingham for another encounter with the Panthers.
Face-off for Friday night’s game in Glasgow at 7:30pm.
Photo Credit: Glasgow Clan