Just as the struggling Dallas Stars appeared to establish some consistency, they endured another setback.
Dallas (9-12-4) posted their first consecutive victories of the season at the start of this week, beating Edmonton at home on Sunday before winning in Calgary on Tuesday.
The Stars were unable to maintain that momentum on Wednesday, losing a 5-2 road matchup against the Oilers.
Mike Modano - third on the team with 19 points - scored twice in the third period, but it wasn’t enough for the Stars to rally from three goals down.
“I was proud of the way we pushed in the third, but we couldn’t get it back where we needed,” coach Dave Tippett told the Stars’ official Web site. “We are a team that has expended a lot of energy the last few days. We don’t have a full bench, and that takes a toll on you.”
Tippett’s club has had plenty of adversity, losing captain Brenden Morrow (torn right ACL) for the season, forwards Steve Ott (broken right hand), Jere Lehtinen (upper body) and Joel Lundqvist (shoulder) indefinitely due to injury, and now, Avery to an indefinite suspension.
The league suspended Avery prior to Tuesday’s game for making inappropriate comments about Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who is dating one of Avery’s ex-girlfriends.
Following a three-hour disciplinary hearing with league commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday, Avery was handed a six-game suspension, meaning he must sit out this matchup with Colorado (12-12-0) and three more games. He’s eligible to return Dec. 16 against Phoenix, assuming Stars management and his teammates take him back.
“That is something that is going to have to be addressed within our organization,” Stars general manager Brett Hull said Thursday.
Dallas signed Avery - the team leader with 77 penalty minutes - to a four-year, $15.5 million deal in July, but the move has yet to pay dividends in the standings. One season removed from a run to the Western Conference finals, the Stars sit at the bottom of the West with 22 points, but are intent on regrouping - with or without the noted agitator.
“Our focus is on our team, how we handle adversity and how we move forward,” Modano said. “It’ll take a lot of work to dig out of this hole.”
To do so, the Stars will need to shore up their defense, which has yielded a Western Conference-high 92 goals. Marty Turco’s 3.51 goals-against average is the worst of his nine-year career by nearly a full goal. Against Edmonton on Wednesday, he gave up four goals on only 21 shots.
The Avalanche aren’t playing great hockey, either, with losses in five of their last nine games. Colorado fell 3-2 at Nashville on Thursday night, when all of the scoring took place in the first period and the Avs managed only 21 shots on net.
“We did everything we could to get back into it. But, obviously, it is a 60-minute game,” said Avalanche coach Tony Granato, whose team was outshot for the sixth straight time. “A bad shift in the first period can be the difference in a game and it was for us.”
This is the second visit to Dallas this season for the Avalanche, who defeated the Stars 5-4 on Oct. 18 to snap a five-game skid at the American Airlines Center. Milan Hejduk scored twice for Colorado, which beat Turco five times on 22 shots.