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Burnside: Five takeaways from dominant Stars victory over Minnesota

In what could be their final game with the big boys for now, Dallas' youngsters sparkled in a 4-1 win

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars dominated an undermanned Minnesota Wild squad Tuesday night, cruising to a 4-1 victory to move to 3-2 in preseason action. The Stars will play their final preseason game against the Wild in Minnesota on Saturday.

Here are some things we saw and/or thought about in the wake of this one.

Video: Smith gives his thoughts on preseason win

 
1. Goodbye -- but maybe not for long

It's entirely possible that some of the players who played a significant role this victory will be playing their next game with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.

Head coach Ken Hitchcock is looking to be down to 23 to 25 players by Saturday's preseason finale -- pending injuries -- and that likely means Jason Dickinson, who scored a pretty goal in the second period racing in from the right side, Gemel Smith, who set up the first goal of the game by Tyler Pitlick just 56 seconds in, and Roope Hintz, who has impressed throughout camp, will be making their way to Cedar Park.

That will be hard for them, but bodes well for the franchise given how well they've played.

"Really all you can control is how we play and the effort we give so I really try not to even put my mind there that far," said Smith. "I just try and take it day by day and if that's where I end up I'm just going to keep pushing and working hard. Hopefully I can get a shot fulltime."

Hitchcock talked again about the difficult decisions that the team will have to make in the coming days, decisions that will be part business and part hockey. But regardless of how this plays out in the short term, this group of young players has left an indelible impression this training camp.

"The ones that are here now have all pushed for work," Hitchcock said. "Whether they're going to play now, or a month from now, or two months from now, or six months from now, we know they're going to play it's just when."

Video: Kari anchors Stars in preseason win

 
2. Kari redux

Netminder Kari Lehtonen turned in his second straight strong performance, allowing one goal on 33 Minnesota shots -- a nice follow-up to his 21-save shutout Saturday in St. Louis. But a little perspective.

Like family, you don't get to choose your preseason opponent's lineup, and the reality through at least the first two periods, was that Lehtonen wasn't really tested by a Minnesota lineup heavy on fringe NHL players. 

In other words, a job well done -- but a job that hardly reflects what will be expected of Lehtonen in about two weeks' time when the regular season begins. Still, it's worth noting that Lehtonen did make key saves at crucial times, including one in the final seconds of the first period after Landon Ferraro was left alone in front and again early in the third period shortly after the Wild had scored to make it 3-1 just 34 seconds into the final frame.

Indeed Lehtonen was at his best in the third when the Stars ran into some penalty trouble, and the Wild made a strong push launching 14 shots on goal.

"You're trying to build like a little base and a couple of good games certainly help," said Lehtonen who has allowed only two goals in seven periods of play after allowing three goals on three shots to start the preseason schedule against Denver.

"It's been going good after a little bit rusty start there," he said.

Video: Shore's thoughts on preseason win

 
3. Devin Shore: Kingmaker (or something like that)

A night after talking about working out some kinks with new linemate Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin turned in his best performance of training camp scoring twice and leading all players with eight shots on goal. Radulov, while still not in full flight, was much better as well. With captain Jamie Benn taking the night off maybe it was the insertion of Devin Shore onto the left side with Seguin and Radulov that was the catalyst to a night of terrific chances.

Shore drew two more penalties (that's four by our count in the last two games) and set up Seguin a handful of times for glorious scoring opportunities. It's not a stretch to suggest that Shore has been the Stars' most consistent forward throughout camp.

"It's no secret how talented those two guys are and how hard they work," Shore said. "So I was trying to bring my compete level to match theirs and step in and try to help out and get them the puck and then go to the net because they can do some pretty special things with the puck."

While Benn's place as a front-line left winger is secure, Shore's training camp suggests he is ready for a big bite of responsibility perhaps playing alongside Martin Hanzal.

"Shore's the type of player that he's got such a tremendous work ethic and conscience he just sets the table whatever line he plays on," Hitchcock said.

As for Seguin, Hitchcock estimated he's had or been in on 20 scoring opportunities the last two nights.

"He's starting to compete in the offensive zone, getting better and better at the way we want him to which I think is a big push," the coach said.

Video: Stars tame the Wild at home

 
4. A few words in praise of Esa Lindell

And allow us for a moment to offer some words of appreciation for Esa Lindell, a player about whom little has been said this training camp, but from whom much is expected as he looks to assume a top-four role along the Dallas blue line.

Calm. Steady. Poised. Rarely out of position. Rarely making the mistakes that make you go, 'Oh, who did that?' And then at the end of the night, you look at the score sheet, and he's had six shots on goal and 12 overall shot attempts in 23:17 of ice time.

"I don't want to say we take it for granted but it's just a given," Hitchcock said. "He's (a) zero-maintenance player. You don't worry about the maintenance. Those are good to have because you've got enough maintenance with a number of people, every team does. But when you have zero maintenance players that you never have to talk to about being prepared or playing the right way or understanding what we're doing those are good. He's one of those guys. We don't worry about him."

Video: Ritchie solidifying role with Stars

 
5. Practicing to be in tight spots

How good can this Dallas Stars team be? Way too early to tell but later this week watch for the team to try and put itself in the mindset of playing tight games in an effort to build a kind of consciousness about playing the way the games will be played starting on Oct. 6.

"If you want to learn how to win you have to learn how to play when the game is tied and when you're up a goal," Hitchcock said. "And we're learning those things. We're not there yet."

"When we can get to that level where we're comfortable playing that way then I think we can grab a lot of points in the league yes. But we're not there yet," he added. "Thursday and Friday when we scrimmage we're going to scrimmage up a goal, down a goal, just to learn to how to play those type of games because that's what the league is. That's a big step."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.

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