SAN JOSE — Like many Bay Area visitors, Philippe Boucher and his friends have packed a busy schedule into their current trip.

They did some sight-seeing in San Francisco. There was a group dinner at a Santana Row restaurant here in San Jose. The wives went on a shopping-and-winery tour. And the guys made sure to take in a couple of Sharks games. In a manner of speaking.

Boucher and his Dallas Stars teammates will be playing the Sharks tonight for the second game in a row at HP Pavilion — a quirk in the NHL schedule that has had them encamped in San Jose since Sunday night.

Although it would seem like a disadvantage to play a tough divisional foe on their home ice back-to-back, the Stars actually requested to do this. The fact that they now have the chance to leave town with two victories tucked in their bags is a just a nice bonus.

"We travel so much that playing these games saves us another trip back here some other time during the season," said Boucher, whose stunning goal with 2.2 seconds remaining Tuesday night set up the Stars' 3-2 shootout victory over the Sharks. "Usually we're in and out of cities so quick. But this time you get to hang out with the guys, and this is a great city to stay."

And it creates a virtual mini-series that potentially can add some spice to an already strong rivalry. Considering how Sharks coach Ron Wilson reamed his team for getting "outworked" after blowing a 2-0 lead Tuesday, tonight's game has a chance to get feisty.


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"I wouldn't want a steady diet of these, but doing it once in a while is a nice change," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "It's a good idea that can really build up the emotion in regular season games."

But more importantly, he added: "It means just one less trip halfway across the country that we have to make."

Travel is the bane of all pro athletes — even if they fly in chartered planes. In the NHL's Western Conference, the travel can be brutal. But the Stars may have it the worst.

"They're a Central Time Zone team playing in the Pacific Division," Wilson said. "I fully sympathize with them. Getting here is like a three-and-a-half hour flight for them. Those longer flights have to be pretty tough now that they're an older team."

When the NHL adopted an unbalanced schedule two years ago that had divisional opponents playing each other eight times a season, it also began adding these consecutive-games-in-the-same-city face-offs. League spokesman Frank Brown said there are about 32 of these hockey doubleheader matchups this season — mostly between divisional foes.

"Saving players on the wear and tear of travel is the main focus," Brown said.

The Stars, who also played back-to-back games against the Kings in Los Angeles last October, are proponents of the formula.

"The California teams log more miles than we do, but we spend more nights in hotel rooms," Stars goalie Marty Turco said. "We're in Texas, and we're a big state. There's nobody around for us to play. So setting up shop in a city like this is not an entirely bad thing."

Getting to games in the Pacific Time Zone is only half of Dallas' problem. Heading home means losing two hours ... as well as sometimes sleep and practice time.

For instance, visiting teams normally prefer to leave town immediately after games. But because the Stars' next game is Saturday in St. Louis, Tippett said it makes no sense traveling all night to Missouri and arriving in the pre-dawn hours. So they'll spend tonight in San Jose, too, and fly out Friday morning.

"Inevitably you can tell at certain points of the season that the traveling will get to you," Boucher said. "It's not like in and around New York where you can bus to two or three games and be in your own bed by midnight. In the West, you get used to coming home at 3 or 4 in the morning."

What's also made this trip atypical for the Stars is wives and significant others were invited along as part of a team-building event that's become popular among NHL organizations. (In December, the Sharks brought dads to a game in Phoenix.)

Tippett said their schedule is so convoluted that this road trip was the only one where they could arrange for the spouses to accompany them. So it's probably a good thing they didn't have to play these back-to-back late-January games in, say, Detroit. "I don't think the wives would have enjoyed that," Boucher said.

The spouses returned home Wednesday, and most of the Stars said this trip hasn't been all that much different than any other regular-season road swing. Well, other than the fact that it's a lot longer.

Wilson said he's hoping that the Sharks will get the chance to be the visiting team for one of these two-games-in-one-city trips.

"I think we're the only team so far that hasn't had the luxury of camping out and playing two games in a place that's difficult for us to get to," he said. "I would welcome the chance to cut down on our travel time and allow us to settle in."

NOTE: Joe Pavelski is questionable after taking a shot off his foot against Dallas. If Pavelski can't play, Patrick Marleau likely would return to center after spending a month as Joe Thornton's left wing.