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Focus on compete

Lindy Ruff stresses compete level as Stars prepare to kick off stretch of six straight games at home

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Early in Friday's practice in Frisco, Stars coach Lindy Ruff spent a lot of time in front of the whiteboard near the players' benches and just talked. Ruff's message for the day.

Compete," Ruff said. "Compete."

Ruff didn't like his team's compete in Thursday's 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn that sent the Stars home with a 1-2-0 record on their latest road trip. In particular was the Stars' late power play with the score still 1-0 and Dallas with a good opportunity to tie. But the Stars didn't, and they gave up a three-on-one shorthanded rush and then a shorthanded breakaway that Islanders captain John Tavares buried to extend the lead to 2-0.

"When we lose a battle to give up a three-on-one and then a breakaway, that's not good hockey," Ruff said. "At that time of the game, you've got to get on the right side of the puck, you've got to win your battle. You've got to be more determined that that battle is ours and put ourselves to in a position to get a point, to tie it and move on and maybe getting that second one."

But the Stars ended up with no points, losing for the third time in the past four games. Since a season-best three-game winning streak (Dec. 23-29), the Stars have gone 3-6-1 over their past ten games and dropped to 19-20-8 on the season.

"We have to put some wins together. Every game is really important," defenseman Dan Hamhuis said. "We haven't come out with results, and we haven't played as well as we can to earn those results. We've had spurts of it but not consistent enough to deserve to have a better record."

Video: Keyword for Stars is 'compete'

The Stars found some offense during this recent ten-game stretch (3.09 per game), but they were also shut out twice. While the goals came at times, so did the goals against (3.55 per game). The penalty kill didn't help, allowing 13 goals during that stretch. The power play was erratic, going 5-29 (17.2 percent). 

"We didn't do enough things to be better," Ruff said. "Our special teams weren't good enough. Our penalty killing gave up too many goals. Our power play Thursday night could have been a difference maker. You play a good third period; you finally get that power play you want and you didn't get the job done."

Despite the recent struggles, the Stars were only three points out of a playoff spot through Thursday's games. Now, they kick off another key stretch of games with six straight at home - three before and then three after the All-Star break. It's another good opportunity to get on track.

"It's going to take a lot of heart and a lot of determination. It's going to take a lot of character acts from the shot blocking to the penalty killing to being in the lanes," Ruff said. "We spent a good 10-15 minutes before the game in New York [Tuesday] about how you are going to score goals, and we scored some goals. I think we got away from it again. For a short period of time [Thursday against the Islanders], we got away from it again. There's nothing easy about it. It's winning a battle, get it to the net, and somebody get in front of the net. And if you've gone a long period without scoring the only suggestion I've got is win your battles and get to the front of the net."

Honka recalled, Oduya to IR

The Stars recalled defenseman Julius Honka from the Texas Stars of the AHL on Friday and placed defenseman Johnny Oduya on injured reserve. Oduya is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a lower-body injury that forced him out of Tuesday's game against the New York Rangers.

This is the second call-up for Honka, who played eight NHL games with Dallas earlier this season and recorded three assists. He suffered a wrist injury while in Dallas and once healthy headed back to Texas, where he leads the team's defensemen with 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 30 games.

"Before I hurt my wrist, I think it was going good," Honka said. "No matter where I play, like this part back in Austin, it was good there. I am really enjoying the game right now. I am glad to be here."

Honka skated as the seventh defenseman in Friday's practice. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said that for now, he plans on running with the six defensemen who played Thursday in New York.

"We'll go with the six that have been playing. We've got to give them a fair chance to get the job done," Ruff said. "We know what Julius can do. I guess he played well in Texas. I think there is still work to do on his game and we are still working through some young D here already. I'd like to put a little confidence in the group we have but knowing that if we need a puck mover, we can put one in."

Friday practice lineup

Here's how the Stars lined up in Friday's practice. Patrick Eaves did not skate.

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Brett Ritchie
Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Devin Shore - Antoine Roussel - Patrick Sharp
Lauri Korpikoski/Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Jiri Hudler

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Patrik Nemeth
Jordie Benn - Stephen Johns
Julius Honka

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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