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'I think this could work': Stars embrace Jim Montgomery's style of play

The new Dallas coach begins implementing his system on Day 1 of camp in Boise, Idaho

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

BOISE, Idaho -- Day One of Dallas Stars training camp is in the books at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho, and it was a day of pace and instruction as new head coach Jim Montgomery began the process of getting players up to speed on how he wants them to play.

"It was a fun practice, a lot of new stuff," said forward Mattias Janmark.

"It was great, it was a lot of fun," said forward Devin Shore. "The speed was really good; everyone was working really hard to show their best out there."

 

[TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL: Click here for the latest news and information from Boise, Idaho]

 

Montgomery had the Stars practice in three groups Friday, each one on the ice for 75 minutes. The on-ice subjects for the day were the forecheck and neutral zone forecheck.

Video: Benn on Monty: "He's just as excited as we are."

"He's new and has a lot of passion," forward Alexander Radulov said of Montgomery. "He wants us to be fast and play more with the puck. And when we are without the puck, he wants to play aggressive to get it back. Just play more with the puck."

The Dallas coach made his point early Friday.

"Be aggressive, make mistakes out of being aggressive," Montgomery told the first group of players as they practiced. "Attack pucks in your area."

Montgomery, who took over the Stars coaching job after establishing the University of Denver as one of the top programs in college hockey, is the third coach for the Stars in three years. He is looking for a middle ground between the ultra-aggressive style of Lindy Ruff and the defense-leaning style of Ken Hitchcock. 

"We were given the green light to be aggressive as long as you are working hard back over the puck," said Shore. "That's the way the game is played now. Mistakes are going to happen, but make sure they are hard mistakes, that way you can recover. It's a really fun way to play.

"Try your best to force turnovers with pace and intensity and as soon as you get it, turn it up and go right back at them quick. Speed is the name of the game now, and I think we have a fast group especially up front, so hopefully, that will work to our advantage."

Montgomery was vocal during Friday's on-ice sessions, making sure players knew what he wanted. He talked individually to players after drills, giving instruction. There were words of encouragement and praise at other times.

Video: Monty: "I thought it went pretty good"

"He's very vocal, very clear," said Shore. "He lets you know what he wants. He'll let you know when you do a good job, and he'll let you know what you need to fix and correct, so it is very clear."

"Hey, we're not in a rush to get up ice," Montgomery shouted out during one drill. "We have the puck, so it's timing."

Timing is a key part of what the Stars will do in Montgomery's system.

"Every team wants to pressure, but the reads are going to be a little different as to when we want to go or when we don't want to go," said defenseman John Klingberg. "And when the defensemen are breaking out, they are expected to be really jumping and be up on the attack."

Getting down that timing down will take time.

"That's going to take repetition, communication, and time," said center Tyler Seguin. "It's going to take practice for sure. We are going to have to see it many times."

There is a lot to learn in a short amount of time. The Stars have three days in Boise and then play their first preseason game on Tuesday against St. Louis at American Airlines Center.

Video: Klingberg: "It's a great time"

"I've been around a long time, and I've never really played that style," Seguin said. "I've played aggressive defensive, but the style we were playing today is very new. It's exciting because I felt I was really learning."

Learning and liking what he was seeing.

"That's what today was about. I was sitting back on the bench and saying to a couple of the guys, 'I think this could work,' " Seguin said.

"It's new. It's fresh. If I saw this happening, I wouldn't really know how to operate around it, so hopefully, we can fool some teams."

 

Early look at the lineup

One difference between this year's camp and previous camps is that Montgomery gave us an idea of what he is thinking about forward lines and defense pairings right off the bat.

"When you've seen success in the past you try to keep it because there is chemistry there," Montgomery said. "When you go over the boards and you know who you are going over the boards with and you like it, it adds energy to how you're going out there and playing. So as much possible, if we see success, we are going to keep it together."

 

Notable combinations and pairings

Here were some of the more notable line combinations and defense pairings in Friday's session:

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov 
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Blake Comeau 
Valeri Nichushkin - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick 
Devin Shore - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg 
Miro Heiskanen - Stephen Johns 
Marc Methot - Julius Honka

Roman Polak, the likely seventh defenseman, skated with Gavin Bayreuther. Roope Hintz centered a line with Gemel Smith and Remi Elie on his wings. Montgomery said all three of those forwards are in the mix for spots on the third or fourth lines.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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