The Dallas Stars cut their roster to 23 players Monday, assigning left wing Curtis McKenzie to the Texas Stars of the AHL. The move means center Mattias Janmark will start the season on the NHL roster.
“It’s no secret that he has been the surprise of the camp,” Stars GM Jim Nill said of Janmark. “The plan was to give him an exhibition game and if he did okay, give him another one. Six games later he was still playing. He had a very good camp. He’s very versatile; you can play him up in the lineup, and you can play him down in the lineup. He’s good at both ends of the rink. He’s good defensively, he’s got some good offensive skills. He’s just a sound hockey player, and right now he deserves to be in the top 12.”
The Stars acquired the 22-year-old Swede from Detroit last season in the deal that sent Erik Cole to the Red Wings prior to the trade deadline. Janmark had a strong showing at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City last month and continued the trend at Dallas Stars training camp and in the preseason, scoring two goals in six games and tying for the team lead with 11 shots on goal.
Janmark is under contract to Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League, where he was expected to play this season. For now, he’ll play in the NHL, and the Stars will monitor his play and go from there.
“There is no window. The agreement we had with the Swedish club is he would come over to camp, and if he was on the team, then he was here. And if he didn’t make it, he wouldn’t go down to the AHL, he’d go to the Swedish Hockey League,” Nill said. “He’s going to start playing here and were’ going to see how he keeps going. If his game keeps growing, and he’s getting better and he is on the team then he is on the team. But we’ll just play that by ear. But we do have the option of him going back to Sweden.”
As for McKenzie, Nill said if he isn’t going to be playing regularly at the NHL level then he needs to be playing in the AHL.
“I told him to just go down and keep playing. We don’t know what is going to happen,” Nill said. “When the season starts, things happen fast between injuries and guys playing good and guys playing bad. Things will happen, you just go down there and keep playing. He’s young, he just needs to keep playing.”
With Monday’s move, the Stars roster stands at the maximum of 23 players: 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders.
Goaltender Jack Campbell (hand) and forward Brett Ritchie (wrist) are both designated as injured non-roster players. Ritchie is expected to be out until December. Nill updated Campbell’s status Monday, saying he could be out 3-6 weeks.
Benn, Hemsky, Demers update
Stars forwards Jamie Benn and Ales Hemsky and defenseman Jason Demers were not on the ice for Monday’s practice in Frisco.
On Benn and Hemsky, coach Lindy Ruff said it was a case of “general soreness,” for both players, who underwent hip surgery in the offseason. Both players played in two of the three final preseason games, including Saturday’s game in Chicago.
“I think it is to be expected,” Ruff said. “We knew we were going to be touch and go through the preseason and before the season started.”
Ruff couldn’t say if Benn and Hemsky would be close to 100 percent by Thursday’s season opener against Pittsburgh.
“That is the great mystery,” Ruff said. “I don’t know quite where we are at. I don’t know that they know where they are at. They are obviously getting better, but they are still missing practices. Part of this is to make sure that we don’t have a setback. We are trying to do the right thing, and the right thing is they miss quite bit of practice time, and they miss quite a bit of game time. We learned quite a bit from [John] Klingberg’s situation last year, and we are going by protocol.”
Ruff said he does expect both Benn and Hemsky to practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
As for Demers, he sat out the final period of Saturday’s game in Chicago with a muscle issue.
“A little bit of a muscle strain, where he had to miss today, and we hope he is back for tomorrow,” Ruff said.
With the preseason in the books, Ruff talked about the goaltending situation following Monday’s practice. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi will share the goaltending duties this season. Niemi, acquired from San Jose in June, posted a 3.00 goals-against average and .877 save percentage during the preseason. Lehtonen had a 4.57 GAA and .821 save percentage in his preseason games.
“I am going to use them both. I don’t know if there is much more to say than I am going to use them both,” Ruff said. “For Niemi, it’s new, it’s different. I think there is always an adjustment. I really like the way he played the last game (Saturday at Chicago). There wasn’t a lot of action for him. I had [the Blackhawks] for four chances by the end of the second period, and there wasn’t much he could do about the goal. He gave us four solid saves when we needed them. He looked comfortable.
“Lehts is trying some new stuff, and I have to be patient in this process because I think it is not easy to change some habits you have. I see him trying and working. I liked his work in practice. I liked some of the stuff he has done in games, some of the stuff he’s caught halfway. For me, there is a patience factor with him.”
“I’ve been fooled before by preseason, thinking the team is going to get off to a good start, and you don’t. I don’t think it is ideal; we didn’t want to go 1-6 and get shut out at the end with our full team in. That’s life, and you wipe the slate clean. Maybe in the back of your mind you know that, but you wipe the slate clean and no reason to panic.”
Stars center Jason Spezza on the team’s preseason record
Stars practice lineup
Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Curtis McKenzie – Mattias Janmark – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jamie Oleksiak
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Not skating: Jamie Benn, Ales Hemsky, Jason Demers
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.