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Friday update: Ruff 'comfortable' with start to season

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

A strong start was a key for the Dallas Stars this season and the Stars have been on target through the first ten games. Their 8-2-0 record matches the best ten-game start in franchise history, last accomplished by the 2006-07 team.

Through Thursday, the Stars were sitting on top of the Western Conference and second in the NHL overall with 16 points.

“As for the first ten games, it’s obviously what we were looking to do. We are in a good spot,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “I think there are a lot of things we are still working on, and we can get better at, but results-wise it is a good start.”

Stars coach Lindy Ruff used one word several times in expressing his thoughts on the team’s start.

“I’ll use the word comfortable,” Ruff said. “I am comfortable with our start. I want us to continue to get better. We’ve found ways to win several games. We put a real nice road trip together, which really helped us. For me, I think the word comfortable. I want to see us improve our play away from the puck where we can frustrate teams a little more than we have the last two games.”

It's early, but there are a lot of encouraging signs for the Stars. As expected, they are one of the top offensive teams in league averaging 3.50 goals per game. Their close-game Fenwick rating, a measure of possession, ranks fifth in the league at 54.9 percent. The special teams have been good. The power play is tied for second at 27.3 percent and the penalty kill ranks ninth at 85.7 percent. Their goals-against average – 26th last season (3.13) – is 18th this season at 2.70 per game. Their team save percentage – 29th last season (.895) – is 17th this season at .911.

“I can name both our goaltenders being a big part of where we are. I can name the goal scoring and how it is spread out now with [Patrick] Sharp, [Cody] Eakin, [Jason] Spezza, [Tyler] Seguin and [Jamie] Benn. [Mattias] Janmark is on the board with a few,” said Ruff. “Our defensive play overall, although it has slipped the last couple games, has been quite a bit better. It’s a combination of everything. Our special teams, the last two power play goals against have been deflected shots off our own personnel. Our attention to giving up the seam plays and the big opportunities has been really good. And our power play has scored us a lot of goals that have got us in good shape in games.”

Playing better at home was a focus coming into this season as well, and the Stars are off to a good start there with a 4-1-0 record at American Airlines Center. The Stars won one home game in October last season and didn’t get their fourth home win until December 6.

“I think the urgency in our game [is a difference over last year],” Goligoski said. “We knew that we had to get off to a better start, and we are working at playing better at home. That’s something we are going to concentrate on all year.”

Those last two home wins have featured a couple of impressive comebacks, rallying from a 3-0 deficit against Anaheim on Tuesday and then digging out of a 3-1 hole in the third period against Vancouver on Thursday.

“Games go a certain way sometimes, and when they haven’t gone great, we’ve responded the right way,” Goligoski said. “I think the urgency in our game has been there.”

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said it doesn’t appear that the team’s injured players – Patrick Eaves (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body) and Curtis McKenzie (hip) – will travel with the team when it heads out on its next road trip. The Stars leave Sunday for a four-game trip to Toronto, Boston, Carolina and Detroit.

“Short term, none are available. I was hoping they’d progress a little quicker, but none of them will make the trip,” Ruff said. “There’s a chance maybe somebody could join after the first couple (games), but our first practice isn’t until Thursday, so it is easier for them to do their skating and rehab here.”

The forward lines at Friday’s practice were the same combinations coach Lindy Ruff switched to during Thursday’s comeback win over Vancouver. The moves included moving Patrick Sharp back up to the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and moving Cody Eakin to left wing on a line with center Jason Spezza and Valeri Nichushkin on the right wing.

Ruff said he has plenty of options with his group of forwards and won’t hesitate to make changes when he feels the need.

“I think I have incredible options that I am going to use inside a game depending on who I feel is going the best,” Ruff said. “We’ve got Eakin who can play the wing or center. We’ve got [Mattias] Janmark who can play the wing or center. Nichushkin can play either side, Sharp can play either wing and Seguin can play center or wing. There are options. If we don’t like what we see, we can put some different pieces together. It gives us an opportunity to create a spark and maybe create some opportunities.”

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Cody EakinJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Mattias JanmarkRadek FaksaAles Hemsky


Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Patrik NemethJamie Oleksiak


Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

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.
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