With Ryan Garbutt suspended, Travis Moen out with injury and Travis Morin recalled from the AHL, Stars coach Lindy Ruff adjusted his forward lines in Friday’s practice in Frisco.
Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin skated together as the top line. Ales Hemsky, a healthy scratch the past two games, skated on a line with Antoine Roussel and Cody Eakin. Morin centered a line with Curtis McKenzie and Erik Cole on his wings. Vernon Fiddler centered Shawn Horcoff and Colton Sceviour.
The Stars recalled Morin from the Texas Stars Thursday to give them 12 forwards for Saturday’s game against New Jersey. Morin leads Texas in scoring and is tied for fourth in the AHL with 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 23 games. Morin plays big minutes in the AHL and Ruff said he’ll look to get the offensively skilled center some decent minutes here in the NHL.
“I’ve got to put him in position where he can try to have success. For me, that would be getting him 12 or 13 minutes,” Ruff said. “The plan is to try to use him on the second power play. He’s been real effective down there. He’s made a living in the American League on the half-wall. We are hoping that he can help out our second unit. You also need to play well defensively, and I thought in training camp and when we had him up last year that was never an issue.”
Morin has played seven NHL games – all with Dallas – and has one assist. He’s looking forward to this latest opportunity, although he knows the role is a little different than the one he plays with Texas.
“Obviously, I am relied on a lot more down there to score,” Morin said. “So, when I come up here it’s a little different. I am playing a lot of third and fourth line roles. It just means you have to take advantage of opportunities, create a little bit offensively but, most important, be solid defensively and make sure you don’t get scored on. And contribute where you can.”
Ruff hasn’t ruled out putting together a line of McKenzie, Morin and Sceviour. That trio was the top line in the AHL last season until Dallas called up Sceviour last March.
“We talked about that,” Ruff said. “I like the way Erik is playing and Erik can add a little more speed, which might be something [Morin and McKenzie] need. But it’s something I won’t be afraid to give a go because I think (McKenzie, Morin and Sceviour) are very comfortable playing together.”
Friday’s on-ice work concluded three straight days of practice for the Stars. The hope is the practice sessions will help get the team back on the right track.
“Just the understanding that the simple things have to be better,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We’re not drawing up some magic play that is going to help us win games. For me, the defending, the compete when we are coming back into our end, which was a huge strength of our team. In the games I watched, I saw three, I saw four, but not many times did I see five when they hit the blue line. That’s not acceptable. Our system is built to have five guys back. If one piece is missing it really ruins how we want to play in our end. We look, I’ll use the word discombobulated. I don’t like that. It looks like we don’t know how to play. I stressed player A has to be here, Player B [there]. When they are, we are a real effective team.”
Forward Shawn Horcoff offered the player perspective.
“[The three days] have been work. We’ve kind of stripped everything down. We’ve gone back to work,” Horcoff said. “We’ve been challenged in here as players to respond with more intensity, with more smarts and more discipline. These three days were an example of how we are going to need to play going forward. We worked on deficiencies, and we worked on them every day. Normally, you look at a schedule like this and say this is where my rest is coming, but looking at our situation this came at a really good time. We needed to put some work in, and we did.”
The Stars assigned defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to the Texas Stars of the AHL on Thursday. The hope is that Oleksiak can get in some quality playing time with Texas, which plays home games against Charlotte Friday and Saturday nights.
“We want to keep these guys playing,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “My plan was to get [Jyrki] Jokipakka back into the lineup. I see some hesitation in [Oleksiak’s] game, which you see sometimes in a young player’s game. The best way to get that out of your game is to play. He’ll go down there and play 20-25 minutes. He was a leader on that team last year. I love the thinking of if you are not playing, let’s get him down playing.”
Moen out for Saturday
Forward Travis Moen (upper body) skated prior to Friday’s practice, but he is out for Saturday’s game against New Jersey.
“He skated for probably 45 minutes,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “He hasn’t had a practice, so he won’t play.”
Defenseman Alex Goligoski, who did not practice the past two days, was back on the ice for Friday’s session.
Stars practice lineup
Here’s how the Stars lined up in Friday’s practice.
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Curtis McKenzie – Travis Morin – Erik Cole
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Notes: Ryan Garbutt (suspended) skated as extra forward.
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.