After getting Saturday and Sunday off, the Dallas Stars were back at practice Monday morning in Frisco. Stars coach Lindy Ruff is hoping the time off will help the Stars as they try to avoid a common ailment in the NHL – struggling in the first home game following a long road trip.
That first game back doesn’t always equal a loss, but the bug has bitten the Stars twice this season. After a four-game road trip in October, the Stars lost to Florida, 6-2, in their first home game back. After a four-game trip in November, they lost to Toronto, 3-2, in the first home game after their return.
“It’s always a tough scenario,” said Ruff. “You watch teams around the league come from long trips, and it’s been the same in other places.”
On the road, things are simpler. It’s all team and hockey. When you get back home, it takes a day or two to catch back up with everyday life and family. Ruff hopes the extra day off will help. He saw some benefits in practice.
“I thought our practice today was really good,” he said. “We gave them a little more rest than we normally do. Hopefully, that will work. I like the jump we had in practice, so I think the extra day (off) was a big deal. I think the scenario is a little different this time.”
The Stars, who went 2-0-2 on their just concluded road trip, originally had a practice scheduled for Saturday afternoon and then an off day Sunday. Defenseman Alex Goligoski was on board with getting both days to rest.
“It was nice that we got a couple days off. Guys will be chomping at the bit,” Goligoski said. “We just have to make sure that we are ready to go. It’s usually the start of games that for whatever reason, teams are slow to get going. It was a long road trip, got tiring at the end. A lot of late nights. I think the two days off will help us.”
The Dallas Stars power play has hit a little dry spell. It’s 0-11 over the past four games and 3-26 over the past nine. The Stars did some power play work in Monday’s practice, and there were some tweaks to the units.
Patrick Eaves moved up to the top unit with Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg. Patrick Sharp played point on the second unit with Alex Goligoski, Cody Eakin, Ales Hemsky and Valeri Nichushkin.
“I think without Jason [Demers], a right-handed shot, to move Sharp to there, he is in a pretty natural position he has played, where he goes back there and shoots from the point,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “And Patty Eaves was a good net-front and slot guy for us. It’s time to shake it up a little. We had some great opportunities and setup time [in Edmonton], we just didn’t have enough pucks get to the net.”
Defenseman Jason Demers, who has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury, skated after Monday’s practice. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Demers is getting closer to a return.
“We’ll get a full skate in tomorrow and hopefully by the end of the week he’ll be available for us,” Ruff said.
Here is how the Stars lined up in Monday’s practice.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Patrick Sharp
Colton Sceviour/Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jordie Benn
Patrik Nemeth – Jamie Oleksiak
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.