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Stars' duo adjusting at different speeds after extended offseason

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- Dallas Stars center Cody Eakin hasn't missed a game this season, but he also hasn't been quite himself either, at least not according to coach Lindy Ruff.

"I think Cody has been behind," Ruff said. "He started off exactly the way I thought he would with a big bang, but then there was a dropoff from missing all of camp."

Eakin missed the first 13 days of training camp because of a contract dispute. He signed a two-year, $3.8 million contract on Sept. 30 but didn't participate in a practice until Oct. 2. He had to extend his training camp into the regular season and he's felt the pain in doing so.

"The first little while my groins were screaming at me," Eakin said. "One game it was one hip flexor, the next game it was the other hip flexor, then it was back to the groin. You work and your body is not used to it. It was tough. I was ready, but I was only as ready as well as I could be."

Eakin, who has two goals and an assist, said he feels he's back up to speed. He said he feels his legs are stronger so his push is greater, particularly later in games.

Ruff isn't so sure, which is why he has backed off on Eakin's workload.

After playing him more than 18:30 in four of the Stars' first five games, Eakin has averaged 14:11 in the past two. He played 15:28 in a 6-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday and a season-low 12:55 in a 3-2 shootout win against the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

"He's not in the condition that he needs to be in to play the minutes," Ruff said. "I'd like to see him play three or four [minutes] less until I can get high enough energy and the minutes correspond with that."

Ruff doesn't have the same issue with defenseman Brenden Dillon, who missed more of training camp than Eakin because of a contract dispute. Dillon didn't sign his one-year, $1.25 million contract until Oct. 2; he didn't practice until Oct. 4.

"I think Brenden has been able to muscle his way through it a little better," Ruff said. "I would guess just from what I saw, his conditioning level was higher, simple as that."

Dillon is averaging 23:07 per game playing with Jordie Benn on the Stars' second defense pair. Dillon is third in ice time behind defensemen Trevor Daley (25:20) and Alex Goligoski (25:02).

Dillon played 30:02 in a 6-5 overtime loss against the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 18. He played 22:37 on Friday.

"That's what I want to be, a big-minute guy," Dillon said. "I want to be an impact guy. I was training that way. I was training the best I could to work on the endurance to be good in the third period and OT."

Dillon said a big key for him in getting up to speed quickly was the power-skating drills he did at home in Vancouver, where he skated with Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen, who was also embroiled in a contract dispute through training camp.

Dillon said extended massage therapy after every practice and game has helped him recover.

"Oh, the first couple of weeks man … I could feel it," Dillon said, wincing to show the pain he was in. "I had more treatments, more massage therapy than normal, but it's hockey and those guys were going through it in the first week of training camp. I was just getting back at it. I have been on the rollers for an hour after practice and stretching more than normal, but I knew it was going to happen. I knew I would be right back in the fire."


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