As the Dallas Stars head to Nashville for their third game of the season, there is a focus on the defensive side of things. That focus comes after the goals against poured in Saturday night in Denver, where the Stars lost 6-5 to the Avalanche.
The Stars started well enough, jumping out to a 2-0 lead before surrendering five straight goals that allowed the Avalanche to take control of the game.
"It's attention to detail," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We had some bad changes. We had some careless play in the defensive end. We got off to a good start and then let our game slip."
Ruff said the message after a game like that is clear.
"The message is we are not going to win many games playing like that," Ruff said. "The players that are playing the game the right way are going to play the most. If that means we are dropping down to three lines inside of a game quickly, we'll get that done. If that means we are going to put other guys in the lineup, we are going to play the game the right way."
Stars players are confident they can play the game the right way and right the ship defensively. They showed improvement defensively last season, trimming the goals against average to 2.78 after allowing 3.13 goals per game in 2014-15.
"There is confidence. We took great strides last year, and the result was winning our division and a playoff run," said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. "Scoring goals isn't going to be an issue; we are going to manufacture offense. The strength of our team this year needs to be keeping pucks out of our net, playing well away from the puck and that's going to result in much better success."
And although the Stars have scored nine goals in the first two games, Ruff is looking for more in that area moving forward as well. The Stars have managed just 48 shots on goal in the first two games. The 24 shots per game ranks near the bottom of the league.
"We're going to get back to ramping up our shots," Ruff said. "I don't think our attack from inside the dots has been good enough. I know we've scored enough goals but the attack part inside hasn't been good enough, and it hasn't been determined enough."
Ruff moved Devin Shore up to the second line center in Saturday night's game, and Shore skated on the second line again Monday with Patrick Sharp and Brett Ritchie on his wings. Shore, who had one goal and one assist Saturday, caught Ruff's eye the first week of the season.
"Devin Shore has really played well down the middle," Ruff said. "He got moved up the lineup in the last game, played well defensively, made a nice play to [Brett] Ritchie and scored on a great shot on the two-on-one goal. For a guy I threw up in the top six late in the game, he really played well."
Adam Cracknell was centering the fourth line, and Jason Spezza skated as a right wing on the third line Monday. Ruff said he had to juggle his lines because Jiri Hudler was out due to illness and was doubtful for Tuesday's game in Nashville.
On defense, Dan Hamhuis and John Klingberg were put together as a pair in Saturday's game, and they skated together in Monday's practice. Ruff said he and his staff are still working on the defense pairs.
"That is still a work in progress and will be," Ruff said. "We've got eight D, and I plan on using more bodies. I think it will take a period of time for them to settle into what they'll end up being."
Injury Notes: Hudler doubtful for Tuesday
*Stars forward Jiri Hudler did not practice Monday and is doubtful for Tuesday's game in Nashville.
"I doubt if he'll be available [Tuesday]," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "He wasn't feeling well going into the game [Saturday], and he wasn't feeling well yesterday. I am anticipating he won't be a player tomorrow."
*Forward Ales Hemsky continues to practice with the Stars. Ruff said the hope is to get Hemsky into a few more good practices and that he could be a player by the weekend.
Stars Practice Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Patrick Sharp - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Lauri Korpikoski - Adam Cracknell - Curtis McKenzie /Ales Hemsky
Dan Hamhuis - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn
Esa Lindell - Jamie Oleksiak
Not skating: Jiri Hudler (illness)
This story was not subject to 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.