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Hemsky Looking to Get on Track

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stars coach Lindy Ruff likes the way his four forward lines have been rolling recently, but there is one player he wants to get on track offensively. That would be Ales Hemsky, one of the team’s key offseason acquisitions.

The skilled right wing, whom the Stars expect to provide some offensive punch this season, has just one assist through nine games.

“I had a conversation with him today and said try not to get frustrated,” Ruff said after Wednesday’s practice in McKinney. “I said it is my job to help you out.”

Among the options Ruff is considering to help out Hemsky is a different look on the power play.

“I’d like to get Hemsky involved a little bit with the first power play unit,” Ruff said. “He’s really skated well and worked hard. It’s my responsibility to give him some help to get going. He’s put the work in and he should get rewarded.”

Hemsky, a free agent signing in July, has played well recently, but there has been no reward in the points department. He played his best game of the season in the Stars’ 3-2 shootout win in New Jersey on Friday, registering eight shots on goal and getting several chances. But, again, no points. He hasn’t registered a point since picking up a power play assist in the season opener against Chicago.

“He’s dynamic. When he is skating, he has elite one-on-one skill,” said Stars center Shawn Horcoff. “He didn’t get rewarded for it (in New Jersey), but it’s one of those nights where if things are going your way he gets two, three goals and four points and things are flying.”

As for Hemsky, he’s still waiting to take flight. He’s trying not to dwell on the lack of points, but staying focused on doing the things that will put him in a position to produce some offense.

“I felt good the past few games, but still not getting points. I’ve been getting some chances. I’ve felt more comfortable,” he said. “You just have to focus on your game and not to think about it. You just have to focus on playing good defense and the points will come.”

Ruff knows the points will come, as well. The Dallas coach pointed out that Hemsky was slowed by an injury earlier in the season. Hemsky said he’s getting up to speed now.

“I had a little bit of a problem after the first game and finally now I can skate,” Hemsky said. “I had a problem and couldn’t skate too much, but now I am better.”

There’s also the issue of Hemsky adjusting to a new team after spending many years with the Edmonton Oilers.

“Maybe,” Hemsky said when asked if he was going through an adjustment phase.

Ruff seems to believe it is probably more than a maybe.

“It’s a new city, new surroundings, new coaches. That takes time,” Ruff said. “You go around the league and look at players that have switched teams. I can probably give you three or four right away, and you’ll say, ‘Man, that guy hasn’t scored yet.’ It’s not easy.”

Horcoff, Hemsky’s long-time teammate in Edmonton, went through an adjustment last season after joining the Stars via an offseason trade, so he knows the challenge.

“It took me a long time. He’s in a similar situation. Twelve years on a team for him is a long time,” said Horcoff. “We play a totally different system here than what we were used to there. It’s a different role for him, we are a lot deeper here. You are not going to get 20 minutes every night. In talking to him, that doesn’t matter to him. He just wants to win. He’s happy we’re having some success and it’s been a long time coming for him.”

Ruff is happy with what he’s seen from Hemsky recently. With Hemsky getting healthy and more comfortable, Ruff believes the points aren’t far behind.

“He’ll come out of it,” said Ruff. “The effort is there. He’ll get results.”

Practice notes

*Both Antoine Roussel and Patrick Eaves sat out Wednesday’s practice in McKinney. It was a maintenance day for both.

“They should be OK,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Eaves is probably a little worse off than Roussel. Both I would expect should be able to play.”

*The Stars assigned left wing Curtis McKenzie back to the Texas Stars of the AHL. McKenzie played in two games for Dallas but has been a healthy scratch the last three.

“We need to get him playing,” Ruff said. “Right now, he’s going down to play. Depending on Eaves and Roussel, he could be back. But he needs to play.”

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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