Two days into his first training camp as a Dallas Star, everything seems to be going fine for right wing Ales Hemsky, one of the team’s key offseason acquisitions.
“It’s been great. It’s been fun. Everybody has been nice,” Hemsky said after Saturday’s on ice session. “The guys have been great and I am just enjoying my time here. Camp is the same everywhere. It is hard work and you just get through it.”
This season will be Hemsky’s 12th in the NHL and it’s the first time he has been at a camp wearing something other than Edmonton Oilers practice gear. He doesn’t read too much into that because, well, camp is camp. He discounts talk of a fresh start. That’s what some people said when the Oilers dealt him to Ottawa at last season’s trade deadline.
He’s simply happy about being a Dallas Star.
“I am excited about it,” he said. “Dallas has a great team and a chance to battle for the Stanley Cup. That’s why I am excited about it.”
The Stars signed Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million contract on July 1. The 31-year-old Hemsky had spent his entire career in Edmonton before the trade to Ottawa, where he played the final 20 games with Jason Spezza, the Stars’ other big season acquisition.
“I think he’s a smart playmaking guy who thinks the game really well,” Spezza said of Hemsky. “He works hard away from the puck to get himself open. He’s extremely skilled with it and is really good at buying himself time.”
Hemsky and Spezza developed strong chemistry in their short time together in Ottawa, and the two have skated on the same line in the first two days of camp. Those two could play together this season. Hemsky could also find himself on a line with center Tyler Seguin and left wing Jamie Benn.
“We have a lot of good options. That was the one thing why I came here; I knew they had the good centers,” Hemsky said. “And they have a good mix of guys you can play with. Even in the game, any matchup they do against you, you can flip the forwards around. That’s a big help. Not a lot of teams have that.”
Hemsky, a highly skilled right-shot right wing, has registered 494 points (146 goals, 348 assists) in 672 NHL games. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said there is plenty to like about Hemsky.
“His passing. I think his compete level is good. I think it is his individual skills,” Ruff said. “You saw yesterday that he had nothing coming on a play from the outside, and on a curl and drag got inside. He turned what should have been a non-scoring chance into a Grade A scoring chance on his own. I think he’s been criticized sometimes for not shooting enough when he is in those situations. He’s a heady player. He can make plays under pressure and I think those are the things that you’ve got to be able to do at this level.”
Hemsky, along with Spezza, should help the Dallas power play, which had its ups and downs last season. And those two players give the Stars’ top six forwards a new and more dangerous look. Those are major pluses as the Stars try to build on last season’s trip to the playoffs.
And a trip to the playoffs is important for Hemsky. He hasn’t been there since 2006, when the Oilers made a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
“It’s been a while. You realize it goes quick. You think you’ll get there the next year. And then you think you’ll get there the next year, but then all of a sudden it’s eight years later you didn’t make the playoffs,” he said. “You are always hungry to make the playoffs. That’s why you are playing. That’s why you are playing hockey, why you are playing in the NHL. You want to make the playoffs and you want to win the Cup. That’s the goal.”
Notes: Nichushkin sits out practice
*Forward Valeri Nichushkin did not practice Saturday due to a groin issue.
“We’re going to keep him off,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We are going to give him a day on, a day off and see where he is tomorrow. Hopefully, we’ll get him back in practice again.”
*Forward Brett Ritchie (finger) continues to skate in a red no-contact jersey.
*Group A defeated Group C, 4-2, in a scrimmage at camp Saturday. Group B went through a practice session.
*The Stars will hold a full intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday. It is scheduled to start at 10:00 a.m. at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Quotable: Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen on the team’s offseason acquisitions
“It’s always exciting to get world class players here. It also makes it a little tougher in practice on me. Those guys can score. It should help us to have weapons like that. It’s going to be hard for other teams to try to match lines and that stuff. Back to the question, it was great to see those moves and I think it made us a lot better.”
Saturday practice lineup
Jamie Benn – Jason Dickinson – Colton Sceviour
Shawn Horcoff – Travis Morin – Brendan Ranford
Brett Pollock – Derek Hulak – Branden Troock
Defense: Kevin Connauton, Cameron Gaunce, Sergei Gonchar, John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth (mixed pairings)
Goaltenders: Anders Lindback, Jussi Rynnas
Antoine Roussel – Tyler Seguin – Erik Cole
Curtis McKenzie – Justin Dowling – Scott Glennie
Nicolas Blanchard – Radek Faksa – Remi Elie
Defense: Maxime Fortunus, Alex Goligoski, Derek Meech, Jamie Oleksiak, Troy Vance (mixed pairings)
Goaltenders: Jack Campbell, Kari Lehtonen
Ryan Garbutt – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Ludwig Karlsson – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Gemel Smith – Taylor Peters – Matej Stransky
Defense: Jordie Benn, Trevor Daley, Julius Honka, Jyrki Jokipakka (mixed pairings)
Goalies: Philippe Desrosiers, Henrik Kiviaho, Maxime Lagace
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.