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Rough loss in Tulsa reveals areas of need for Stars

With three exhibition games remaining, Dallas still has plenty of holes to patch before opening night

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

TULSA, Okla. -- The good thing for the Stars is that Oct. 3 is still 12 days away.

The bad news is this team still has a lot of work to do.

Despite icing a talented lineup in a neutral-site exhibition game at BOK Center in Tulsa on Saturday, Dallas was outgunned in pretty much every element of play in a 6-0 loss to the Florida Panthers.

The Stars (2-2-0 in preseason play) were once again outshot, this time 42-30, and once again couldn't create any offense. Dallas has four goals in four preseason games, with one scored in overtime. On Saturday, some of the Stars' best players looked frustrated and out of sync.

If you're looking for explanations, it was the first preseason game for Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, so they clearly had rust. If you're being honest, that shouldn't be reason enough to be that bad.

Video: Montgomery disappointed with performance in Tulsa

"I guess if you're looking at the glass half full, to face this kind of adversity right now is better than the regular season," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "But our effort wasn't acceptable tonight."

The effort also wasn't great in the preseason opener, and the Stars were pretty much saved by goalies Jake Oettinger and Landon Bow in a 2-1 win at Colorado Thursday. So there is a trend there that is a bit concerning.

"It's execution everywhere," Montgomery said. "On the breakouts, our puck pressure, we weren't reloading on pucks, we gave up a lot of odd-man rushes. Their offense and defense was better than ours."

The Panthers dressed a thin lineup and kept most of their best players at home. Dallas had Benn, Seguin, Radulov, Joe Pavelski, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen and Ben Bishop.

Asked if there were positives to find, Pavelski said: "You've got to find a couple of things. I guess the positive is we understand there's a lot more work to do."

Pavelski spoke about the team's effort and said it has to get more intense. That, he said, should help improve the execution.

Video: Klingberg takes step forward despite loss to Panthers

"Whether it's regular season or preseason, there's a certain effort that needs to be given and a certain level of execution. For getting pretty well into camp, it seems the execution has to improve."

Dallas continues to struggle with breakouts, can't maintain possession in the offensive zone, and is taking too many penalties. The Stars allowed their first power play goal of the preseason, but killed four other penalties. They are 14-for-15 on the penalty kill in four games so far.

The Stars have three preseason games remaining -- at St. Louis Tuesday, home against Minnesota Thursday and home against Colorado Saturday. They also are trimming their roster and getting down to more manageable groups. The top players should be able to play together more, and that should create more progress.

"We just have to have a couple of good practices here and go into St. Louis and have a much better game," Montgomery said.

Asked if it's possible to fix the problems before the season opener Oct. 3, he said: "Everything is possible, but we've got to put the effort in. If we put the effort in, we're going to start trending in the right way, but we have to put the effort in in these preseason games."

 

Line switching expected again this season

Video: Pavelski on Stars' execution in loss to Panthers

With everyone struggling, Montgomery was playing all sorts of line combinations. That could be a good thing, as players such as Benn, Seguin and Radulov need to get used to playing with Pavelski, Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov.

"They're great players. I've always known it and you can see it in some of their plays and some of their skill level," Pavelski said of his first game experience with Seguin, Benn and Radulov. "Now, it's all about us getting up to speed and being a little bit cleaner with it."

Seguin said in the morning that he has been watching Pavelski closely in practice. The 35-year-old forward signed a three-year, free-agent contract with Dallas in the summer after playing more than a decade in San Jose. So while these new teammates have played against one another a lot, they still need to find a way to play with one another.

"He's crafty, he's smart," Seguin said. "I kind of `iso-cammed' him in a few practice. He's not Roope Hintz speed, but the way he controls the pace of play. It's weird to compare him to this guy, but because I've played with Jagr before, he has that delay like Jagr does. It's just that vision. You can see his hockey IQ every shift."

Montgomery said he is hoping the chemistry comes with a little more practice.

"They're trying to get ready for Oct. 3rd," he said. "Players are trying to find their rhythm, and obviously they've got to get in more games because we didn't do a good job of that tonight. It didn't look very pretty out there."

Added defenseman John Klingberg: "We've all got to be a lot better than that. We've got to be ready."

 

Tulsa trips help spread goodwill

The Stars played a preseason game at BOK Center for the second consecutive year. Dallas brought its in-arena entertainment, including music guru Michael Gruber, announcer Jeff K and anthem singer Celena Rae. They also had the Ice Girls there to give the arena the feel of American Airlines Center.

Trips like this are important, Montgomery said

"The fans were great, I just wish we would have given them a little more to cheer about," Montgomery said. "I think hockey is such an exciting sport when you come to it live. That's where people get the bug. We've just got to get more and more people to the game."

Pavelski said he thought the fans were knowledgeable and into the game.

"It was a great building. The fans were good," he said. "It's fun to come on these trips and see the fans. You try to grow the game when you can."

 

Player updates

» Ben Bishop started the game and stopped 23 of 24 shots. He split the game in half with Jake Oettinger, who allowed five goals on 18 shots.

Montgomery said in the morning that he thought Bishop would play two periods, but said after the game he was mistaken. The plan all along was for the two goalies to split the game.

» Justin Dowling, who left Thursday's game with an upper-body injury, is listed as day-to-day, Montgomery said.

» Goalie Anton Khudobin has missed three days of practice, but Montgomery said that he is also day-to-day and the rest has been precautionary.

Photos by Les Stockton

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.

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