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Defensive Posturing

by Dallas Stars Staff / Dallas Stars

The Stars were back at work on Tuesday, hitting the ice in Frisco for an extended practice that included defensive positioning and penalty killing.

The team is focusing on the positives – five out of a possible eight points to start the season is a good thing. Dallas is one of only two NHL teams (Buffalo being the other) that has no regulations losses on its ledger to this point.

The team has played well in Marc Crawford’s new system, especially at even-strength. Dallas has outscored the opposition, 9-4, at even strength and also has a short-handed goal to its credit. The Stars are creating chances and getting shots on net (34.8 per game – good for eighth-best in the league). Dallas even ranks third in the NHL in shots allowed per game at 24.5.

The negatives? Well, they exist too. Start with a 56.2 penalty killing percentage, with seven power play goals against in four games. Then there’s the shootout, something the Stars have excelled in since it was implemented in 2005. Three shootout losses in as many tries is not following the familiar script of the past.

The Stars want to shore things up in both areas while continuing to improve as a hockey club and get more points in the standings.

“We worked on the penalty kill a bit today and that went well,” said Crawford after practice. “We wanted to have a good 45 or 50-minute practice, which we did and then we worked on aspects of defense that we need to work on. We worked on penalty killing structures and set-up and we talked about positioning more than anything. Then we looked at game-like situations. Trying to fabricate game-like situations is tough in the fact that that no one wants to shoot through people and no one wants to hit like you would in a game. We watched the video prior to the practice on the chances we’ve given up and the goals that we’ve given up and we tried to find a common theme that was there. On the positive side, we saw some small adjustments that we can make that should make a big difference – adjustments with our sticks, our clears, our positioning. The more that we are on the same page, how we pressure and when we pressure, our habits on the penalty kill will see improvement.”

The Stars worked on individual shootouts at the end of the practice, with every player taking turns in taking their best shots at goaltenders Marty Turco and Alex Auld.

“The shootout is an important part of the game now,” said Crawford. “We have to recognize that we want to have a good shootout team. I believe we have the talent, both with our goaltending tandem and our forwards, to be pretty good in shootouts. You don’t want to make too much of it but at the same time we have to realize that we haven’t gotten anything out of it yet and we want to make subtle improvements there too.”

Stars Host Nashville Wednesday
Dallas’ opponent in its second home game is the same as it was in the first – the Nashville Predators. Dallas dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Preds back on October 3 and the team would like to get the full two points this time around.

“We had that first game with them and we played well but we didn’t get the victory,” said defenseman Nicklas Grossman. “We want to come out (Wednesday) with a good start. We feel more comfortable with our style of play and we feel we are improving every day. I think we just need to keep working and do the small things and trust each other and try to get two points.”

Wednesday’s game is on FOX Sports Southwest and Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket. Click here for tickets.

Injury Update
Mike Modano continues to be sidelined with a cracked rib. Crawford said that he will continue to get treatment and the team will see how his body reacts. Modano says he feels better but he hasn’t tested the injury much with stick-handling and shooting. He is listed as day-to-day with the injury.

Steve Ott is out with an oblique injury suffered in Sunday’s game at Vancouver. Crawford said he will be out at least one week.

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