Stars forward Ales Hemsky was the center of attention at this morning’s skate at American Airlines Center. Hemsky will play his first game against the Edmonton Oilers tonight. Hemsky played 10-plus seasons with the Oilers before being traded to Ottawa late last season and then signing with the Stars as a free agent in July.
“It will probably be weird,” Hemsky said. “But it is better that we play them first here than in Edmonton. That will probably be worse over there. Obviously it will be weird because I’ve never been in this situation, so you can ask me after the game.”
Hemsky comes into tonight’s game in search of his first goal of the season.
“I’ve been having a lot of chances, a lot bounces but it never went in,” he said. “Hopefully, tonight I can get one.”
The assists have started to come recently. Hemsky has four assists in his last five games and now has five assists in 20 games this season.
“I am playing with [Jason] Spezza again,” Hemsky said. “The last five games I think it’s getting better and hopefully we can build from that, stick with it and keep going.”
Hemsky admitted there has been an adjustment to a new team and a new system.
“It’s pretty easy to get adjusted in the city, but the hockey, the new guys, the new coaches and everything, it takes time,” Hemsky said. “I don’t make any excuses. It is what it is right now. Just try to get better every day and just try to help the team.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff isn’t surprised that it is taking Hemsky some time to adjust.
“I’ve had different players through the years that it takes a while,” Ruff said. “I’ve had players that it took a year before they fit in, they found that this is the way you need to play. He’s been better but obviously he’s got more done lately. I know he’s a passer but I’d like to see him shoot a little bit more, which he has. There’s a couple games here where he should have been rewarded. He didn’t. At least he’s getting on the score sheet by setting up plays.”
Stars lineup notes: Garbutt returns
Stars forward Ryan Garbutt is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing the last three games with an upper body injury.
The Stars’ forward lines should look the same as the last game except for Garbutt taking the spot of Curtis McKenzie, who was sent back to the AHL on Monday. The defense pairs are expected to remain the same.
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice for the Stars, so he is expected in net tonight. Colton Sceviour and Jordie Benn skated late, so they are expected to be the healthy scratches.
Quotable: Stars coach Lindy Ruff on his team’s play during the homestand
“It’s just been inconsistent. Like I said, I’ve loved our team, I’ve hated our team. I’ve loved our team, I’ve hated it. I loved them for 38 minutes and then I hated the way we played for the last 22. I loved the way we fought back against Carolina, but I didn’t like where we got to before we fought back. So it’s been that inconsistency that’s hurt our team. It’s hurt our play here at home and that’s frustrating. I’m frustrated with it. I think the players are. We’ve won a couple. We’ve won in different fashion. I’d like to see us just play a more complete (game).”
Viktor Fasth is expected to get the start in goal for the Oilers tonight. He is 2-4-1 with a 3.37 goals against average and .890 save percentage.
The Oilers are coming off a 7-1 loss to Chicago on Saturday. The Oilers are winless in six straight games, including a 0-4-1 mark on a just completed five-game homestand. Tonight’s game kicks off a three-game road trip.
“I think it’s important for the team to get back out on the road,” said Oilers coach Dallas Eakins. “We had a good day of practice yesterday. We had good meetings. We had the mandatory day off and now the outside pressures of like this scrum today is far smaller than yesterday and our players are dealing with far less questions. It enables them to try to stay in a positive frame of mind and just concentrate on the game.”
Former Star Luke Gazdic is expected to play tonight. It will be his first game of the season with the Oilers.
“He’s worked extremely hard and it was time to get him into a game,” Eakins said. “Even better fitting that it was his old team and we hope that he can be physical in a way with driving his legs, finishing his checks and the one thing we really want him to get to tonight is get to the front of the net.”
Who: Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Erik Cole – Shawn Horcoff – Ryan Garbutt
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Trevor Daley – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: Colton Sceviour, Jordie Benn
Injured: Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)
Oilers projected lineup
Taylor Hall – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Teddy Purcell – Mark Arcobello – David Perron
Luke Gazdic – Leon Draisaitl – Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks – Boyd Gordon – Steve Pinizzotto
Andrew Ference – Jeff Petry
Martin Marincin – Justin Schultz
Nikita Nikitin – Mark Fayne
Scratched: Keith Aulie, Jesse Joensuu
Injured: Benoit Pouliot (foot)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.