The Dallas Stars practiced in two groups Friday in Frisco and split them into an AHL group and an NHL group for the most part. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said after spending a week evaluating all the players in camp, this is an opportunity to start moving the process towards the NHL season, which is less than two weeks away.
“I’d like to get locked in sooner than later. I think it gives you an opportunity to grow as a team. I think there some situations you have to iron out, how we’re going to play,” Ruff said. “We need a complete buy-in; this is how we are going to play, and we are going to play it for 60 minutes. In the preseason, there are players that I know automatically that the only way they have of impressing is by scoring. Sometimes it is hard for those players to buy into the team defense part. When you tighten up the group, it will be a lot easier for us.”
The group that included the NHL players had a total of 15 forwards and eight defensemen. With Jamie Benn and Ales Hemsky still not ready to play in preseason games as they recover from offseason hip surgery, Ruff can’t look at possible lines in exhibition play. But Friday’s practice session did provide a glimpse of what Ruff could be thinking when it comes to forward lines and defense pairings at the moment. Here was the lineup for Friday’s practice.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Remi Elie – Mattias Janmark – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth – Jamie Oleksiak
Elie and Janmark are two of the young Dallas prospects that Ruff mentioned as players making a push for a roster spot among the forward group.
“There are different players for different reasons. Some of the young guys, even [Radek] Faksa and [Remi] Elie have done a nice job. I think [Mattias] Janmark has shown me some composure. He’s a little bit of an older player, but he has played really well,” Ruff said. “In different situations, it has been two or three young guys. I don’t think it would be really fair to go any further than that. Some of them have different roles. I think on our team we are talking about a spot that might be a fourth line role or possibly a third line role.”
Obviously, Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi were the goaltenders in the NHL group. Maxime Lagace served as the third goaltender for the session.
Notes: Niemi to play Saturday
*Ruff said that Antti Niemi will play Saturday’s preseason game against Tampa Bay at American Airlines Center. It will be Niemi’s first appearance of the preseason.
*The Stars have three preseason games in a span of four days and Ruff said he expects to play more of his NHL players.
“I am going to go with a little bit more veteran lineup now,” he said. “We are going to see a few more of our guys playing; we are going to see a few more of our D pairs together and play them inside of those games. Instead of three or four of our top forwards, we are going to try to get five or six in each game and tighten up our game.”
Ruff on Thursday’s 6-0 preseason loss in St. Louis
The Stars fell to 0-2-0 in preseason play with a 6-0 loss at St. Louis Thursday night. Ruff offered some observations on the game during his media availability Friday.
On the game overall:
“It wasn’t a great showing. We started the game well. We got beat on some inside the zone one-on-one plays, we got beat around the front of the net on a couple of goals, we got beat back to the front of the net. I thought we started the game well, but in the first period we gave up a screened power-play goal, the second period just a couple of bizarre goals. There was one off Jordie Benn and another off [Patrik] Nemeth. Inside those opportunities were some opportunities to snuff out the opposition. The whole game broke down to one-on-one battles, getting beat off the wall, getting beat back to the front of the net.”
On the performance of goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 24 of 30 shots:
“There were three or four goals he couldn’t do anything about. The first three he definitely couldn’t do anything about, and there was a two-on-one goal, so you are looking at two goals. I think he had two bizarre goals go in that you just sort of shake your head and I think Kari would be shaking his head too.”
On the performance of Dallas’ young players in the game:
“What [the Blues] did a few times was match up their top line against our youngest forwards. I think our forwards found out in a hurry how good those guys were. [Vladimir] Tarasenko is a heck of a player. That NHL line ate up our young guys. It’s a great lesson that tells them if you want to play in this league this is how good you are going to have to be.”
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.