The first home game after a long road trip can be a tough one. The Dallas Stars found that out last month when they returned home from a 4-0-0 road trip and lost 6-2 to the Florida Panthers in their first game back at American Airlines Center.
So, Stars coach Lindy Ruff decided to change things up as the Stars prepare to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night at the AAC as they come off their latest trip.
“It’s what I call a trap game. I’ve looked at different teams around the league coming back home, and it is always a tough game,” Ruff said. “Last time we made this (practice) optional and this time I have gone with a full practice. I may make tomorrow morning optional. Just trying to switch it up, feeling out the energy of our team and trying to find the right plan for what’s going to work coming off a long road trip.”
What can make that first game back so tough?
“You’ve been on the road, you’ve had that same routine, and you come home and a lot of things are different. You’ve got kids; you’re up different hours. Everything is different,” Ruff said. “The road is an easier place to be for guys with families. They love getting home and seeing their families. It takes you out of a routine and takes you a day or two to get back into the routine when you get back home.”
Added forward Patrick Sharp: “The off-ice has a little bit to do with it, checking in with the families again and adjusting to being back in Dallas. On the road, there is not a whole lot of distractions. It is you, the guys, a team dinner and then all day at the rink the next day. Maybe that has something to do with it.”
Sharp said the experience of the loss to Florida, and that the players have been down this road before during their careers should put them in the right frame of mind for Tuesday’s game.
“We know it is there,” he said. “We’ve been through it enough times in our careers as individuals and as teams that we should be ready for it.”
They may know it’s coming, but that doesn’t ease Ruff’s concerns.
“If I had the cure I would try to solve it,” Ruff said. “It’s a hard one. I just want us to play well. It’s trying to stick with a real simple process inside the game. If we make the process difficult, it is tougher to win.”
Stars center Tyler Seguin was named the NHL’s second star of the week after registering seven points (four goals, three assists) in four games as the Stars went 3-1-0 on their road trip. Seguin is tied for the NHL scoring lead with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and has points in eight straight games (five goals, eight assists, 13 points).
Roussel available to play; Eaves, Moen practice
Forward Antoine Roussel has been dealing with an upper-body injury and missed the past two games. He practiced Monday and Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he will be available to play Tuesday against Toronto.
“Antoine was available to play in Detroit, but it was my decision to give him a couple extra days,” Ruff said. “Antoine is physically a go (for Tuesday). That will be a coach’s decision. He is in the right place now and should be able to play.”
Patrick Eaves (lower body) and Travis Moen (upper body) both practiced Monday. It was the first practice for both players since they went out with injury. Eaves has missed 12 games and Moen has missed 11 games.
“Both those guys, it is their first day of practice. We hope to get a couple of real good practices in them and see where they are in a couple days,” Ruff said.
With Patrick Eaves and Travis Moen practicing, the Stars had 15 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders on the ice for Monday’s practice. Here is how they lined up.
Jamie Benn- Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Cody Eakin – Jason Spezza
Ales Hemsky – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Valeri Nichushkin
Travis Moen – Devin Shore – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth – Jamie Oleksiak
Antti NiemiThis 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.