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Looking for offense

Ruff stresses net drive as Stars struggle to score goals

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

As the Dallas Stars were getting ready to announce that Ales Hemsky would miss five to six months following hip surgery Monday morning, an animated and vocal Lindy Ruff was on the ice driving home the importance of getting to the net to his players.

At one point, Ruff went to the front of the net himself, driving into goaltender Kari Lehtonen and knocking the goal off its moorings.

"I don't want any misunderstanding on where I want people to get to. We need people going there," Ruff said after practice. "We're not generating enough hard chances. I put that onus on the forwards. We are still looking for pretty when pretty isn't there. We have to get more people going to the net. We have to get more people looking for second opportunities."

The Stars have scored just one goal in the past two games despite getting 68 shots on goal. Ruff said the Stars need better quality shots, more shots off second opportunities.

"We had 10-15 chances to create second opportunities last game, and we chose to peel back to the outside and look for something better, which turned into nothing," Ruff said. "We've got to ramp up our odds. I like where we've got our shots, but I don't like where we are getting our opportunities from. You won't score. On today's goalies, you won't score. Where we got some of our clean looks, you won't score."

Through eight games, the Stars rank 26th in the league in scoring at 2.25 goals per game. Last season, they led the league in scoring at 3.23 goals per game. But Ruff said this year's team is different and how they need to score is different.

Take out injured players like Hemsky, Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee) and Patrick Sharp (concussion-like symptoms) and the speed the Stars used to generate opportunities last season isn't there right now.

"We can't create the chances with speed we were creating before because some of the players that are in [the lineup] don't have that speed," Ruff said. "So how are we going to create those extra chances? How are we going to create that extra goal?

"We've got a lineup that has changed drastically. We have to make some adjustments because the speed of our game with the personnel we have out has changed. The message today was we are not the same type of team we were last year. Not right now. Not with the number of injuries. We'll get Eakin back, and we'll get Sharp back, and then we'll go in that direction, but if we are going to be successful our mindset, with where we are as a team, has to change."

And that means less pretty and more gritty for now.

The Stars have not gotten the start to the season they wanted. They are 3-4-1 and will go into Tuesday's game at Columbus with four losses in their past five games. The schedule in November will be tough, with 16 games in 30 days, including seven games - five of them on the road - over the next eleven days. It's still early in the season, but Ruff said the Stars need to get their game in order.

"We have to harden up. To a man, we haven't been hard enough. We've got to get back to being tougher, thicker skin and tougher," Ruff said. "Do your job or you won't be going out there. Play well or expect not to play. We've got a job to do, and we've got a good enough team to get it done. It's just the mentality of how we get it done has to change right now."

Video: Ruff addresses Hemsky injury

Injury Updates: Hemsky out 5-6 months after hip surgery

*The Stars announced Monday that forward Ales Hemsky underwent surgery to repair a labral tear in his hip Monday and will be out five to six months. Hemsky suffered the injury at the World Cup of Hockey in September. He missed the Stars' first four games, played in game five and then went out of the lineup again.

"When I watched him play the other night, he desperately wanted to play, but he was struggling," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's very similar to what Jamie [Benn] went through [last season]. You deal with it, and you move on."

Hemsky is the second Stars forward to undergo surgery and be lost long-term this season. Mattias Janmark underwent knee surgery in late September and was expected to miss five to six months.

*Stars forward Patrick Sharp, who has missed the past four games with concussion-like symptoms, still isn't skating but is making some progress.

"Feeling better," Ruff said. "He was in here [Sunday] working out."

*Center Cody Eakin, who has been out since early in training camp with a knee injury, is making progress as well.

"He's progressing. He's on the ice in a real light sense," Ruff said. "Put that at a two to three-week window probably."

*Right wing Patrick Eaves left practice early on Monday, but Ruff said Eaves should be fine for Tuesday's game at Columbus.

"Battling a bruised foot. It's uncomfortable to skate. He wanted to get a little bit of work," Ruff said. "He didn't skate on the road, and I thought the last couple games he played very well."

Monday's practice lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin-Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Curtis McKenzie /Gemel Smith - Adam Cracknell - Jiri Hudler

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn
Jamie Oleksiak - Dan Hamhuis

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

This story was not subject to 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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