Marc Crawford is in the process of installing an up-tempo style of play in the early stages of the preseason, one that will encourage defensemen to join in the attack.
Based on the evidence of a couple of scrimmages at Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, when the Stars get possession of the puck, D-men will be activated as part of the rush. They'll be able to push into the offensive zone and even get to the net.
Mind you, this won't be some firewagon free-for-all. Crawford still wants his team to be defensively responsible. But Crawford has always favored an aggressive approach during his coaching career, and that isn't going to change now that he's taken over in Dallas.
"Our defense is very gifted at getting involved in the attack, stepping into the play," Crawford says. "They read real well from their defensive responsibilities that they had in place here for so long. Skating's where the game's at, and we have a lot of great skaters here.
"We don't want to lose the great traits that we've got here; we're going to build on them. But supplementing the attack is a really nice adjustment for this club to make. It's all about quality reads. We don't want to become reckless. We want to be supportive. We've got the entire preseason to get it down and we'll be continually reinforcing it. It's understanding, getting comfortable and playing it instinctively."
That style figures to mesh with the talents of Stars defensemen Stephane Robidas
, Trevor Daley
, Matt Niskanen, Nicklas Grossman, Karlis Skrastins, Ivan Vishnevskiy and Mark Fistric
"Everybody talks about it like it's a big deal, but the main thing is still the work ethic," Robidas says. "(Crawford) doesn't want us to be all over the place. We have to be in good position. We have to be smart. But you have to be ready to go. If the chance is there, you've got to go."
Niskanen, who enters his third NHL season, says the adjustment won't be a problem, that the change is style is welcome.
"Being aggressive can work to our advantage," Niskanen says. "That's something that plays well into my game. It will be fun as long as you do it well. You have to play smart, play position first, but when you're getting involved more, that's definitely the fun part of the game."
The Stars are well aware that they need to tighten up at the blue line. Their 257 goals-against tied for the most in the Western Conference last season.
"You're not going to win many games if you're doing that. That's unacceptable," Niskanen says. "We just have to get better in that department."
Says Robidas: "Last year the beginning of the season was awful. Then we had all the injuries. If we would have had an average start, we would have made the playoffs. But we didn't and we were playing catch-up the rest of the way. The focus is to be ready from the get-go."
Now that veterans Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor have moved on, Robidas must take on greater leadership responsibilities within the defensive corps, which is still a relatively young group.
"He's a key guy, for sure," Crawford says. "He can play every situation. He's really assumed a leadership role on this team, watching how he handles himself, talking to younger defensemen, how he acts on the ice, how he practices and works out. He's a great example, first and foremost. And he goes above and b beyond by talking more, taking guys aside. Veteran players are the best coaches, and he would fall into that category for us."
Robidas welcomes the increased duty.
"It's a great opportunity," Robidas says. "I'm at stage in my career where I can take that role. I've been here a long time and that's the next step for me. I'm glad they have confidence in me. I want to show them they did the right thing by giving me a chance. And it's not just myself. It's the whole group."STARGAZING
- The Black team bounced back on Tuesday after absorbing a 5-0 loss to the White team a day earlier. This time the Black team came away with a 4-2 victory in a scrimmage focusing on special teams. The teams went 4-on-4 for the first 25 minutes, and then alternated 5-on-4 power plays for 30 minutes. Mike Ribeiro
, Michael Neal
, Jamie Benn
and Tyler Shelast (empty-netter) scored for the Black team. Shelast also had a penalty shot that was stopped by Matt Climie. Luke Gazdic
and Toby Petersen
found the net for the White team.
- Marty Turco will start in goal for the Stars in Wednesday night's preseason opener at the AAC against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rookie Tyler Beskorowany
, who's played well in the scrimmages, will be the backup, Crawford says.
- Crawford says the aim in preseason games is "to be simple in our structure. We'll go over the importance of faceoffs, set breakouts and neutral-zone forecheck, how we're going to do those things. That's detail work."