The Dallas Stars are heading out on the road for their final road trip of the regular season. The Stars practiced Friday morning in Frisco before departing for Southern California for two games this weekend.
“Just a light skate really,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Just a hands morning where we do a few shooting drills and maybe up and down the ice five or six times.”
There will be nothing light about this weekend’s games. The Stars play the top two teams in the Pacific Division – the Los Angeles Kings (Saturday) and the Anaheim Ducks (Sunday). Two more good tests for the Stars as they hone their game with the Stanley Cup Playoffs just around the bend.
“Every team is a challenge but again we’ve got two teams that are playing really well and two teams that have come up the standings,” Ruff said. “They had tougher starts, but they’ve come up the standings.”
Up first will be the Kings, who have won the first two meetings against the Stars including a 5-2 victory in Dallas on Mar. 15.
“We know it’s going to be a heavy game. There will be a lot of battles on the walls,” Ruff said. “I felt in the last game they created some pressure; we gave them a few goals. I feel it’s going to be a 3-2 game if we play well. The chances will be down. That’s just the way they play. They are heavy on the walls, and they don’t put very many pucks in the middle of the ice.”
The Stars are 9-3-2 in their past 14 games on the road.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff provided some injury updates Friday. He said forward Tyler Seguin, who has been out since Mar. 17 with a cut to his Achilles tendon, is expected to start skating in the next few days.
“He’ll be skating Sunday or Monday,” Ruff said. “I really doubt he would play [before the regular season ends].”
Seguin has said that he is determined to be back by the Stars playoff opener.
Ruff said that defenseman Kris Russell and forward Brett Ritchie, who are both out with lower-body injuries, are day to day. He said neither player will travel on the upcoming road trip.
Ruff said Russell, who has missed five games with his injury, should play before the regular season ends.
“He could come back and play one of the last two or the last two, but I think one of the last two is realistic,” Ruff said.
Defenseman John Klingberg did not practice Friday. Ruff said it was a maintenance day.
Stars forward Ales Hemsky picked up two assists in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Arizona, extending his points streak to six games. Hemsky has seven points (two goals, five assists) during the run.
“I’m feeling pretty confident. I’ve changed my game a little bit being more patient, focusing more on defense and then waiting for my opportunities,” said Hemsky, who is playing on a line with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel. “We’ve been lucky and scored on our opportunities. If we can chip in, we chip in, and our focus has been defense.”
Over the past 12 games, Hemsky has 13 points (four goals, nine assists). He has 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) and ranks sixth on the Stars in scoring.
"He's been pretty consistent all year,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I look at his play; I don't often look at points. I look at how well he's skating, how the compete is. His compete for most of the year has been excellent, and I think he's getting rewarded on the points side. Sometimes the points come to you; sometimes they don't. They're starting to come. He's in the right place, and it's good to see."
Patrick Sharp sealed Thursdays win over Arizona with an empty-net goal. It was the Stars’ 23rd empty net goal of the season, an all-time NHL record. They broke the previous record when they scored their 22nd in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Nashville.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff has had his players take a more aggressive approach to shooting at empty nets, even taking the shot from their end of the ice and taking the risk of an icing call. That has led to more closing out a lot more games with the empty-net goals.
“I think we’ve broken the rules. The old thinking was you have to get to center [ice], my thinking isn’t that anymore,” Ruff said. “I let the guys go after it because I feel if you chip it out, five seconds later they’re back in your zone. If we miss, we’re coming down for a faceoff, that’s basically the same result. When we’re shooting, and I think we’ve seen we’ve killed a lot of games by getting the puck down the ice from the other side of center ice. I know there’s probably a lot of arguments in the league, other coaches would still argue, but I’ve gone the other direction. I’ve given the guys the green light to go after the empty net when we don’t get center.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.