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Stars' Ruff on growing pains, positive signs, adversity

by Dan Rosen

This week's Five Questions featured Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill discussing the patience required when you're an executive trying to build a winner and dealing with the peaks and valleys that make the ride to consistency a bumpy one.

You can read that Q&A right here.

To add to it, Stars coach Lindy Ruff also talked with about the trials and tribulations his team has experienced so far this season after its surprising run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

The Stars (11-13-5) enter their game Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks with 27 points through 29 games. They have played 17 home games, tied with the Edmonton Oilers for most in the Western Conference, but they are 6-6-5 in those games. They have been prone to turnovers and giving up odd-man rushes, and it shows in the results as they enter play Wednesday 30th in the NHL in goals-against per game (3.52).

Ruff, though, said he saw some positive signs Saturday when the Stars beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 despite getting outshot 11-3 in the third period.

"We stayed away from some of our careless turnovers, although we had a couple late that allowed them to come up ice," Ruff said. "We've had a lot of situations where we've been giving up big rush opportunities, 2-on-1s, those types of things, even some shorthanded stuff. But we stayed away from those big mistakes. I thought we did a lot better job of getting inside. In the first 40 minutes we probably created twice as many opportunities as they did, which was a real big improvement for us."

Ruff doesn't expect any quick fixes, though. He understands the Stars are young, particularly on the back end with John Klingberg, Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak. They have 69 games of NHL experience between them. He also understands they don't have a true No. 1 defenseman.

"So you're going to see some of those mistakes, and some of those are growing pains," Ruff said.

It doesn't help that the Stars haven't gotten the quality of goaltending they need to make up for some of those growing pains. Kari Lehtonen has a 3.10 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas have a combined 4.61 GAA and .856 save percentage in seven games.

"I think we've had some tough luck inside of games where we've played some real good games and have had some tough goals go in," Ruff said. "We've also had some situations that we didn't need to put ourselves into and it has cost us. But you've got to stay with it and you've got to continue to improve."

The good news for Ruff is he hasn't seen any sag in attitude or performance from Dallas' top players, captain Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza.

"That's one thing this group has been real good with, the communication and trying to stay up, stay positive and continue down the road," Ruff said. "I just keep telling them that you get judged by how you handle adversity and you guys are the guys who are going to have to handle it."

Ruff said he thinks this is an essential part of the Stars' development, one they didn't go through last season, when there wasn't much expected of them. They came into this season burdened by expectations after adding players such as Spezza and Ales Hemsky.

"I think this is real crucial for this team that they can battle through this, battle through frustration," Ruff said. "It should harden you. It should make you better. It should make you want to play the game the way it's supposed to be played, shift in and shift out, to give yourself the best chance to win."


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