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Friday practice update

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The message for the Dallas Stars Friday morning in Frisco was to put Thursday’s 3-1 loss to Calgary behind them and focus on Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.

“We worked on our hands a little bit today,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said after Friday's practice. “Our execution and our passing wasn’t really that sharp. The goal is not to lose two in a row.”

The Stars have hit a little bit of a rough patch recently. They’ve lost four of their past eight games, posting a 4-2-2 record so far in December. It’s hard to call ten points in eight games a slump, but the Stars’ play has been spotty.

“We have a target on our backs, and we know that. We are seeing some pretty good games from other teams right now. It’s going to be like that the rest of the way,” said defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We’ve been a little inconsistent. We’ve played good hockey at times, but when we haven’t played good hockey it has stung us.”

“We’ve just got to get back to our game and take a step back to remember we’re a good team,” said center Jason Spezza. “We haven’t played as well in the last couple of weeks, but the results haven’t been terrible. It’s up to us to refocus and just know that we have a little stretch before Christmas, try to win out and then go into the break with a little momentum.”

The Stars have entered a tough stretch of their schedule. Thursday’s game against Calgary saw them face the hottest team in the league. Saturday they face a Montreal team that is struggling but still owns the third-best record in the league. And after that, five of the next six games are against Central Division teams, including Minnesota and Chicago back-to-back heading into the Christmas break and then a back-to-back set with St. Louis coming out of the break.

“I think every game’s a big test,” said Ruff. “At the start of the season, I thought they were a big test. I know you think they are bigger now, but every game unfolds in a certain way. We didn’t start well in [the Columbus game], and we started really well [last night] and had a tough five minutes. You are looking to play a complete game knowing that there is always a period or a segment of a game that always goes the other team’s way.”

It’s a cliché, but for Ruff and the Stars it is about winning one shift at a time and building from there.

“We talk about winning a shift, whether it is on the offensive side or the defensive side, and then we just talk about winning periods,” Ruff said. “If you don’t win a period, you try to go out and win the next one. Inside of that 60 minutes, you can play a lot of little different games. If you stay with the process and do the right things, most of the time it will lean your direction.”

The Stars take on the Montreal Canadiens Saturday at American Airlines Center. The Canadiens have the third-best record in the NHL at 20-10-3, but they have been struggling lately. Their 3-0 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday was their sixth loss in the past seven games (1-6-0).

“I haven’t watched a lot of the game yet, but [they] dominated the shot clock. I’ve seen some of the games where I’ve liked the speed of the team,” Ruff said. “They skate really well, so you’re going to have two teams that can get up ice, so I think it should be a good contest. We’ve played inconsistent, and they’ve had a little bit of a tough time. Usually when we play it’s a pretty tight affair.”

Here’s how the Stars lined up in Friday’s practice.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinValeri Nichushkin

Colton Sceviour/Travis MoenVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn

Jyrki JokipakkaJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

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 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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