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Looking for improvement

Ruff wants Stars to clean up 'sloppy' play; Seguin, Hemsky, and Shore back at practice

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars will be back at it again tonight at American Airlines Center, taking on the Colorado Avalanche in their sixth game of the preseason. The Stars are coming off a 2-1 shootout win over Florida Tuesday night, but coach Lindy Ruff saw some things he didn't like and is looking for improvement against the Avalanche.

"It's just playing the game the right way," Ruff said. "I thought the last 30 minutes last night we became a pretty sloppy club. We gave up some pretty good opportunities, and our goaltender made some big saves for us. We talked about that this morning. Again, it's playing the game the right way, defending the right way when we need to defend. I thought last night, at times, that part of the game was missing."

Ruff is focused less on wins and losses and more on player evaluations. Ruff and his staff are still trying to sort out an opening night lineup and making decisions on who will take the spots of injured players.

"Victories get us nothing right now. With the amount of injuries we have right now and the players we have to look at, who may be in that opening lineup and who has earned the spot to be there," Ruff said. "We've got defensemen we're making big decisions on and with a couple centermen out we are making a decision on a centerman. It's more important that these guys understand how we play, the better they play, the better chance they'll have of playing opening night."

 

Video: Preseason evaluations continue for Ruff

Kari Lehtonen is expected to play the entire game in goal tonight. The defense is expected to consist of Dan Hamhuis, Julius Honka, Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns, Jamie Oleksiak, and Mattias Backman.

Jiri Hudler, Jason Spezza, and Patrick Sharp are expected to play together on a line, a trio that could start the season together. Gemel Smith, who had a strong game Tuesday, will play in his sixth preseason game. He's among the group making a push at the center position with Cody Eakin out until early November and Mattias Janmark out five to six months.

"His skating has been a notch above other guys, that's been real noticeable," Ruff said. "That's the one thing that has really stood out."

Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2012, is in his third year of professional hockey. He's registered 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 133 games with the Texas Stars the past two seasons. 

"I'm just trying to take one day at a time," Smith said. "If the opportunity is there I am going to try and step up and fill those roles if I can and play my hardest and hope for the best."

Injury update: Seguin, Hemsky, Shore practicing

There is some progress on the injury front. Center Tyler Seguin (heel), right wing Ales Hemsky (groin) and center Devin Shore (ankle) have all started practicing.

"Shore skated the whole practice [Monday]. Hemsky skated about 80 percent of it and will go through a full practice today, and Seguin in all likelihood will be pretty close to that," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

That's a step forward for all three players. Seguin has been out since suffering a hairline fracture in his heel during a pre-tournament game at the World Cup of Hockey. Hemsky was injured in Czech Republic's final game at the World Cup. Shore was injured early in training camp.

As for if all three could be ready by opening night on Oct. 13, Ruff said it is still too early to tell.

"It's a possibility," Ruff said. "We'll see where we are after the weekend."

Center Travis Morin, who had been out with illness, has resumed practicing. Ruff said Morin is good to go. Morin was placed on waivers Wednesday and if he clears, will be assigned to Texas of the AHL.

Also, center Jason Dickinson, who had offseason hip surgery, is practicing as well. He is expected to return in late October or early November.

Wednesday's Game

Who: Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: None

Projected Stars Lineup

Jiri Hudler - Jason Spezza - Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Matej Stransky
Remi Elie - Gemel Smith - Brett Ritchie
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Cole Ully

Dan Hamhuis - Julius Honka
Esa Lindell - Stephen Johns
Jamie Oleksiak - Mattias Backman

Kari Lehtonen
Maxime Lagace

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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