After a day off on Sunday, the Dallas Stars were back on the ice Monday morning in Frisco. The Stars continue their homestand Tuesday when they take on the Winnipeg Jets, a Central Division rival.
The Stars haven’t fared well against the Central Division this season, posting a 0-6-3 record so far. They are the only team without a win within the division.
Tuesday’s game is key on the standings front as well. The Jets currently hold the second and final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and are eight points ahead of the Stars. It’s a big game against one of the teams the Stars are trying to gain ground on in the race for one of the eight playoff spots in the West.
“It’s huge. Every game is huge now. Obviously, we’ve dug ourselves a bit of a whole. It’s time to start filling that hole back in and get back in there in a playoff position,” said Stars defenseman Jordie Benn. “We know where we are in the standings. We’ve got to keep our heads out of that and go game-by-game. As I said, we’ve got a hole to dig out of, and we are in the process of doing that now.”
Opportunity for Sceviour, McKenzie
Stars forwards Colton Sceviour and Curtis McKenzie both skated in the top six in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Montreal. Coach Lindy Ruff liked what he saw and said he expects to keep the two there for now.
“I am looking for some zone time and I am looking for some guys that are heavier on the puck,” Ruff said. “That’s going to be the key to our game. We get to spend more time. Our transition will lead to that, from getting out and getting after them again before they can change.”
Sceviour is skating on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. McKenzie is on the second line with Jason Spezza and Erik Cole.
“I like it. I am going to leave Sceviour there and probably leave McKenzie there,” Ruff said. “A lot of times young players come up and are stuck on the fourth line because your top lines are kind of set. With [Patrick] Eaves out and with Val [Nichushkin] out, there is lots of opportunity there. I want to see these guys seize that opportunity. They are going to get ample opportunity. If they compete like that and play like that, that opportunity is just sitting there for them.”
Hemsky: ‘I just have to keep working hard’
Stars forward Ales Hemsky was a healthy scratch in Saturday’s game against Montreal. It was the second time this season Hemsky has been scratched.
“I just have to try to keep working hard on my game and during the practices,” Hemsky said. “You have to focus on yourself and start with yourself.”
Hemsky has struggled so far this season, registering just seven points (two goals, five assists) and a minus-12 rating in 25 games.
“I had a long discussion with him before I scratched him,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “He knows what I need from him.”
Klingberg’s ice time
Defenseman John Klingberg was logging some big minutes when he came up to the NHL from the Texas Stars almost one month ago. But that ice time has dropped, and he played just 13:27 in Saturday’s win over Montreal. Stars coach Lindy Ruff discussed Klingberg’s ice time after Monday’s practice.
“I said this when he was going well; I didn’t want to get too far ahead,” Ruff said. “I think it hurt his game. For a couple games, he played poorly. He defended poorly, was in on a lot of scoring chances against. That was the part I referenced, we’ve got to be cautious here. We can all get excited and jump up and down, but the league will take a look at him, figure him out, which I think teams have now. They are a little more cautious and have more respect for what he can do offensively. For me, it’s just to make sure that this young defenseman stays on the right track. He’ll get better, but we gave him way too much responsibility. It led to reckless play, individual play.”
Goligoski, Horcoff sit out practice
Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski did not practice Monday. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said it was a maintenance day for Goligoski, who is a little banged up.
“Goligoski is probably going to need (time off) after every game,” Ruff said. “He’s got a couple of little nagging injuries we need to make sure we stay ahead of.”
Stars forward Shawn Horcoff also did not practice. He was ill, Ruff said.
Monday practice lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Colton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzie – Jason Spezza – Erik Cole
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Jamie Oleksiak – John Klingberg
Not skating: Alex Goligoski (maintenance), Shawn Horcoff (sick)
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