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Could spirited morning skate be positive sign for Stars?

Coming off a shaky loss to Toronto, Dallas' defense looks to rebound against the Devils

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (28-18-4) at Devils (18-24-8)

6 p.m., Prudential Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest PLUS

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Stars did not go on the ice Friday, so they held a full morning skate Saturday and it was quite spirited. The defensemen were strong in drills for odd-man rushes and no goals were scored when the team went through an extended 1-on-1 drill at the end of practice.

So is that a good sign that the defense is recovering from a shaky game Wednesday against the Maple Leafs?

"It's all about the details, communicate, talk to each other, do the little things," said defenseman Roman Polak. "We just have had some breakdowns that we usually don't have, and we can fix that tonight."

Dallas will face a New Jersey team that has scored nine goals in the past two games. The Devils lost Thursday to Nashville, 6-5, in a shootout. New Jersey ranks 25th in scoring at 2.64 goals per game and 30th in GAA at 3.54, so there is a chance for the Stars to respond on both ends of the ice.

Video: DAL@NJD: Bishop, Stars focused on pushing forward

Dallas won a 2-0 game against the Devils on Dec. 10 with shots being 36-25 in favor of the Stars. And while interim coach Rick Bowness said he always likes to see good play in practice or the morning skate, he said it doesn't typically mean anything.

"I've seen some great morning skates, and the puck drops and you're not there. And I've seen some lousy morning skates, and the puck drops and you're there," Bowness said. "Really, just get yourself ready to play. That's the morning skate."

Polak said it's difficult to draw conclusions on the team, because individuals use the morning skate for different reasons.

"Everyone is different. Some like to get dialed in and get focuses. Some like to stay loose," Polak said. "I like to practice hard and be consistent with what I do, but I usually take optional morning skates off, so I can be rested."

 

What to watch

The Devils will honor their 2000 Stanley Cup champions at the game because this is the 20th anniversary of the victory. The Devils beat Dallas in six games to win that series. That could be difficult for Stars fans, and kind of interesting for Devils forward Blake Coleman, who grew up in Plano and was a huge fan of the Stars at the time.

"I was a diehard Stars fan growing up, so I definitely wanted them to go back-to-back, but I also appreciate what we're doing here," Coleman said of the celebration. "I wouldn't be here if not for the Stars, so I look at it that way."

Coleman works out with players in Frisco during the summer and said he always enjoys playing against Jamie Benn, who he has known for several years.

"It's special going home when I get to see family, but even when they come here I have a special relationship with a lot of guys over the summer," Coleman said. "And I know the staff really well, so this is always a fun game for me."

 

Hintz skates, hopes to return Monday at Rangers

Roope Hintz suffered an upper-body injury Monday and missed Wednesday's game. He skated Saturday morning, but was not ready to go, so he will sit out with the hope he can play Monday against the Rangers.

Justin Dowling suffered a lower body injury last game and is back in Dallas. Joel Kiviranta was called up and is expected to jump into the lineup. Kiviranta, who signed in the summer as a free agent, has played seven NHL games this year.

Stephen Johns was a healthy scratch last game on defense, but will come back in and play beside Miro Heiskanen. Andrej Sekera and Taylor Fedun will get the healthy scratches on defense for this game.

Ben Bishop will be in net. He is 11-2-0 in his career against the Devils with a 1.52 GAA and .947 save percentage.

 

By the numbers
173

The Devils have 173 power-play opportunities in 50 games, third most in the NHL this season. Dallas yields the eighth most power plays at 165.

 

15

Stars winger Alexander Radulov has 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) in eight games against the Devils. He is plus-5 in that span. Radulov leads all Stars players at plus-11.

 

7-2-3

The Stars are 7-2-3 in their past 12 games against the Devils, good for 10 points.

 

He said it

"I think we have to a lot more to give. We've done a good job of staying in the pack, but do we want to push ahead or stay in it. We have to hit that next gear, try to move ourselves away from the pack and have it on cruise control going into the playoffs instead of fighting for our lives."

-- Bishop on what Stars need to clean up following 2-4 stretch

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov

Denis Gurianov - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Mattias Janmark - Joe Pavelski - Joel Kiviranta

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Stephen Johns - Miro Heiskanen

Jamie Oleksiak - Roman Polak

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: D Andrej Sekera, D Taylor Fedun

Injured: C Roope Hintz (upper body), C Justin Dowling (lower body), C Martin Hanzal (back)

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Minnesota Wild when they return home to American Airlines Center on Friday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 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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