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Monday Update: Stars’ fathers hit the road with team this week

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stars forward Patrick Sharp was sporting a new haircut Monday morning, and he admitted that it coincides with the players’ fathers hitting the road with the team on this week’s trip to Minnesota and Chicago.

“A little bit. He doesn’t like the long hair,” Sharp said. “He is constantly telling me to trim it up, so I thought I would do him a favor for the fathers’ trip and look respectable.”

Sharp is one of 17 players who will bring their father, other relative, friend or mentor on the trip.

“I’ve been fortunate to do it a few times with a different organization. They do a mothers’ trip as well. It’s always great because the parents are the ones that often sacrifice the most for us players to get where we are today,” said Sharp. “One thing we all have in common is we all have great support systems. So to enjoy a road trip with a mother, father, brother, son or whoever it may be is certainly special.”

Team staff are bringing fathers, family, friends or mentors as well. It will be an opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at life on the road with an NHL team. It’s a good time for a little bonding and a chance to get some insight into what makes teammates tick.

“It’s awesome. You get to see all the personalities and see where the guys get their traits,” said center Vernon Fiddler. “Jason Demers, you wonder why he talks so much. His dad does, too. Butch Eakin, Cody’s dad, same kind of guy, salt of the earth. [John] Klingberg and his dad are separated at birth. It’s a good week, and it’s nice to have our dads around. They get to come on the plane and experience everything. It’s the tenth or eleventh trip for my dad. He really looks forward to this time and this little bit of son-father bonding time, so it is nice.”

And it’s also a nice opportunity to pay back those who have helped players get where they are today.

“It really is. You don’t realize until you are a dad yourself,” Fiddler said. “It’s so fun to take my little guy to hockey and spend time with him in the vehicle after games talking to him about his goals and stuff. I remember doing the same with my dad. You know what he’s gone through, and he put a lot into the game and where I am today. It’s definitely a way to pay him back.”

Said Stars coach Lindy Ruff: “I like seeing that father-son relationship. Every one of these players, including myself, remembers jumping in the car and their dad driving them a number of miles for X numbers of years. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. But you’ve got to be thinking, ‘Holy crap, my dad spent a lot of time driving me around.”

Super Bowl lessons; experimenting with lines

Before the Stars hit the ice for practice Monday morning, there was a little talk about Denver’s win over Carolina in the Super Bowl. The lesson: defense wins.

“I used the Super Bowl as an example this morning. The defensive team won again,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Defense dominated the game. Denver gave them no time, gave them no space. Going in I liked Carolina’s offense. I thought Cam Newtown was unstoppable. But once again, a good defense kind of snuffed everything out and frustrated the hell out of an offensive team. That’s a hell of an example.”

The Stars practiced for about an hour before heading for Minnesota, where they will open a two-game road trip. The Stars play the Wild Tuesday and then take on the Blackhawks Thursday in Chicago.

“The focus today was just get a real good practice in,” Ruff said. “There were two or three drills that had everything in it. It had our transition in it, our defending once we got inside and just try to ramp up the speed getting ready for tomorrow.”

Ruff rolled out some new lines in practice Monday as he tries he deals with the absence of center Jason Spezza, who is out with an upper-body injury.

He kept the Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves trio together. He moved Mattias Janmark to the wing and had him on a line with Cody Eakin and Patrick Sharp. Radek Faksa centered a line with Valeri Nichushkin and Ales Hemsky. Vernon Fiddler centered the fourth line with Travis Moen and Antoine Roussel rotating at left wing and Colton Sceviour on the right side. Ruff said the lines weren’t set in stone.

“I’d like to keep Faksa in the middle and keep Fidds where he is at, so the only alternative there is Janmark has got to go to the wing,” Ruff said. “I like the relationship between Janmark and Hemsky, so maybe the lines today aren’t what we are going to see. But I wanted to test these out in practice. I went back to the notes when Faksa and Val played together, and I thought they played pretty well together. With Spezza out, it’s trying to find the right balance.”

Ruff said he liked the top line combination of Benn, Seguin and Eaves in Saturday’s game as far as their ability to generate chances.

“Seguin, Benn and Eaves were in on 11 chances [Saturday against Chicago]. They could have three or four. They should have had three or four. We missed too many good opportunities,” Ruff said.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves

Mattias JanmarkCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Valeri NichushkinRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Travis Moen/Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn

Jamie OleksiakJyrki Jokipakka

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

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 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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