COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When you are losing, everything is under scrutiny. That's just the way of sports.
So the Stars cancelling practice on Tuesday following a 4-0 loss in Buffalo that dropped the team to 1-5-1 is up for debate right now. Dallas had a crisp morning skate on Wednesday ahead of a contest with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Stars coach Jim Montgomery said he felt that was a product of the team getting an off-day.
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"We looked at it and in this stretch of games, we have never had a complete day off," Montgomery said. "We've landed at 2 in the morning at home and had the next day off, but we felt mentally and physically - more mentally than physically - we needed just to get away. For guys to get away and regroup mentally, it's healthy. And we felt with a good crisp morning practice skate like we had today, we would be better off for our entire group, because we know we're going into three (games) in four (nights)."
It's an interesting decision, but one that was reached in a combined gathering of captain Jamie Benn, the coaching staff, and management.
"There's good communication between myself and Monty and the coaches. We're playing a lot of games in a short period of time. Rest is good. Sometimes you need practices, too," Benn said.
Video: Montgomery on Stars' 'desperate situation'
"You put everything into the equation and going to bed late and having so many plane rides, it takes a toll. If we can get rested here and there, especially on the road, that can only help."
The Stars enter the game with the lowest scoring total in the league at 1.86 goals per game, and also have one of the least successful power plays at 1-for-22. There is the thought that practicing the details of the game could help improve those areas, but Montgomery said the morning skate was used to address those issues.
"That's why we practiced on the things we practiced on today," he said. "We found our speed through the neutral zone hasn't been good enough, so we had two drills focusing on that, and we focused on our power play. Those details are the details we have to hammer down. Last game, we only gave up nine scoring chances, so our puck pressure and defensive game is in order and now we have to transition pucks better."
Columbus is struggling after an off-season in which they lost leading scorer Artemi Panarin, top center Matt Duchene, and goalie Sergei Bobrovski in free agency. The Blue Jackets are 2-3-0 and are currently sixth worst in scoring at 2.20 goals per game.
This is one where the decision-making on preparation will be discussed heavily depending on the result for Dallas.
Perry: 'I'm excited to get back and be a part of this team'
Corey Perry will play his first game in a Stars uniform, and the team is excited for that.
Perry, 34, played 988 games with the Anaheim Ducks, but was bought out in the summer and signed with the Stars as a free agent. He spent the summer working to refine his rehab from knee surgery that kept him out for all but 31 games last season, but then slipped on a step two days before training camp began and suffered a fractured bone in his foot. He missed all of training camp and has been skating for the past week or so to get ready for his return.
"It's exciting," he said. "You miss all of training camp and you're just excited to get to play. I'm excited to get back and be a part of this team."
Perry has scored 372 goals in his career, including five seasons of 30 or more goals. However, he had just six in 31 games last season following his knee surgery, so he still has to show that he can be an effective goal scorer again. The Stars believe he can be.
Video: Perry excited for first action with the Stars
Asked what Perry can add, Montgomery said: "Offense, creativity, second chance opportunities in and around the net, and then being able to make great decisions offensively in all three zones. We're excited about that part. We also have to know that we have to watch his minutes."
Perry said he worked hard in the summer in order to get 100 percent healthy after the knee surgery and he believes that should help him coming back from the foot injury.
"Conditioning wise, I feel all right," he said. "It's just a matter of going out and playing hockey. Just go out and play hockey and enjoy it."
Montgomery has Perry playing the right wing on a line with Rope Hintz and Jason Dickinson, and also has him playing on the second power play unit with Hintz, Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen and Denis Gurianov.
Montgomery sees Gurianov as 'much more confident player'
In addition to the return of Perry, the Stars have recalled Denis Gurianov and will play him on a line Andrew Cogliano and Rhett Gardner, as well as on the second power play. Gurianov made the opening night roster out of camp, but then was sent to the AHL when the Stars felt he lacked confidence.
Montgomery said Gurianov, who scored a hat trick in his first game back in the AHL, is a different player now.
"We're looking for the Denis Gurianov that we all see and believe can help our team win," Montgomery said. "And out on the ice today, he was a much more confident player. He was better in the pregame skate today than at any point in the preseason and the games he played in the regular season.
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"We're excited because we know the offense he can bring, the speed he brings to our team. Credit to him, he went down there and mentally he changed everything."
Montgomery is leaving the top line alone and has Joe Pavelski playing with Radek Faksa and Jason Dickinson.
Ben Bishop is in net. He is 5-5-1 in his career against the Blue Jackets with a 1.86 GAA and .936 save percentage.
By the numbers
That's the number of consecutive wins the Blue Jackets have taken on the Stars (who are 0-5-2 in that stretch). Columbus is 12-2-1 in its past 15 meetings with Dallas.
That's the goal differential for Columbus, fourth worst in the NHL. Dallas is minus-1.29, sixth worst in the league.
That's the shots on goals against for Dallas, second best in the NHL. Columbus ranks third at 28.4.
He said it
"We're just looking at making sure we're five guys connected and that we're coming in through every zone together. You saw it a couple times tonight in the neutral zone where we were able to hit the wide guy and we were attacking in. We're just not making those finishing plays once we cross the offensive-zone entry. And then a couple times, you saw us rim pucks out to defensemen, and we're shooting pucks, but we're not connecting on the shot tip plays."
-- Montgomery on how Dallas is hoping to improve its league-worst goals per game total of 1.86
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Roope Hintz - Corey Perry
Jason Dickinson - Radek Faksa - Joe Pavelski
Andrew Cogliano - Rhett Gardner - Denis Gurianov
Esa Lindell - Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera - John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun
Scratched: C Justin Dowling, D Joel Hanley.
Injuries: LW Blake Comeau (lower body), D Roman Polak (sternum), D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back).
Blue Jackets projected lineup
Gustav Nyquist - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Alexandre Texier - Boone Jenner - Emil Bemstrom
Sonny Milano - Riley Nash - Jakob Lilja
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara
Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.