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Stars hope 'uncomfortable' practice leads to better results

Coaches use video session to put emphasis on how players can work harder for positioning to score goals

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

FRISCO, Texas -- The Stars had an uncomfortable day at the rink Friday.

It was needed.

Following a 2-0 loss in Nashville Thursday in which the team was handcuffed for the second consecutive game by a hot goalie, the coaching staff brought up several video examples of where the team wasn't performing well. Much of the emphasis was on how the players could work harder to get positioning to score goals.

 

[GAME DAY GUIDE: What you need to know before Saturday's matinee against Nashville]

 

Dallas ranks 25th in scoring at 2.63 goals per game and 30th in 5-on-5 scoring with 107 goals. While the numbers had gone up in the month of February, Dallas was limited to one goal on 43 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss to Edmonton Tuesday and no goals on 33 shots at Nashville.

It was a frustrating display of some of the same problems the team has faced for much of the season.

"I would hope they were a little uncomfortable," Stars interim coach Rick Bowness said of video sessions. "We've been harping on it, and every time we see progress and we're scoring three goals a game for a little bit, then we take a step backward. So we're trying to avoid those steps backward."

Video: Bowness on Stars' offense, upcoming homestand

Much of the video session was showing players that they needed to work harder to get to the front of the net for tips and rebounds. Also stressed was the fact they have to find a way to finish plays. As simple as it sounds, there are a lot of players on the Stars who are getting chances and not scoring goals.

"When we see old habits creeping in, we address it. And if it gets a little uncomfortable, it gets a little uncomfortable," Bowness said. "Our job is to keep them on edge and their job is to take that edge on the ice."

Dallas ranks 29th in overall shooting percentage at 6.79 percent and 30th with high-danger chances at 14.04 percent. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Stars rank sixth in the NHL in generating high-danger chances at even strength. That's one reason the low conversion rate is so frustrating.

Bowness said those numbers are brought up in the meetings.

"If you don't want to hear it, then don't put us in a position where we have to bring it to your attention," Bowness said.

The past couple of days have been challenging for the coaching staff and the players. On one hand, the team is improving and has started to get better first-period starts and better control of the shot attempt differential. On the other hand, the penalty kill is struggling and the offense has dried up.

The Stars are on a four-game losing streak at 0-2-2, but they also have actually played well at times. Dallas lost by one at Boston, lost in a shootout at St. Louis, lost in a shootout to Edmonton where it had a 43-27 advantage in shots on goal, and then lost at Nashville in the only real stinker in the run.


Still, Central Division foes St. Louis and Colorado are both on tears, and teams like Nashville are fighting to earn a playoff spot. That means the Stars have to match that intensity.

"We can't take anything for granted," Stars forward Joe Pavelski said after the Nashville loss. "You can't let these things lay around. Everyone's fighting, same with us. We have points that we need to go earn. It's a fun time of the season to be playing, so we've got to be better as a group all around."

While Bowness said so much of scoring goals includes excitement and effort.

"That's not a skill, that's a will," Bowness said after the Nashville loss. "That's the intensity level that they had to keep us away from the net, and the intensity level that we didn't have to get to the net."

The fact that the Stars get to face Nashville again Saturday could be a good thing.

"It probably helps us," Bowness said, "but more importantly it's how we play the game."

 

Bishop ready to return after being struck by puck

Ben Bishop has started just one of the past five games. He was hit in the knee with a puck at the morning skate in St. Louis and has been tending to that, but he is expected to be back in goal as a starter Saturday against the Predators.

Bishop is 21-14-4 with a 2.49 GAA and .921 save percentage this season. However, he was in a bit of a slump in February. Bishop went through a 3-3-1 stretch where he had a goals against average of 4.03 and a save percentage of .898. Bishop saw that more as losses to St. Louis and Boston following a three-game winning streak, and didn't really see himself in a slump.

Video: Bishop on making his return for Stars against Preds

"I had a three-game winning streak there and then you lose two games to the best teams in the league, the first time I've lost back-to-back in two months," Bishop said. "I'm definitely happy with where I'm going. Obviously, you're going to have stretches in a season where things don't go your way, but you're not going to lose sleep over losing two games in a row for the first time in three months."

Still, getting to sit out one game and work with goaltending coach Jeff Reese could be seen as a good thing.

"It was probably good he had a couple of days to work with Jeff and work out a couple of things that may have been bothering him," Bowness said.

Video: Heika, Rea on state of Stars as stretch run heats up

Asked about the numbers for Bishop after he ranked first in save percentage at .934 last season and second in goals against average at 1.94, Bowness said the team has not been as good defensively.

"Sometimes that's a team thing. It's up to the team in front of him to play as well defensively," Bowness said. "Bish's numbers last year were phenomenal, and they're pretty damn good this year when you look at it."

 

Stars (37-22-8) vs. Predators (33-26-8)

Saturday, 1 p.m.

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest; ESPN+

Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM

Spend your afternoon with the Stars when they return home to battle the Nashville Predators at American Airlines Center on Saturday at 1 p.m. Get your tickets now!

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, and listen to his podcast.

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