The Dallas Stars will wrap up preseason play Saturday night, taking on the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.
The Stars have lost five of six so far in preseason play, and after Saturday morning’s skate Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he’s seen some progress in the preseason and he’d like to see a 3-0 win tonight, but if he doesn’t he’s not going to worry about it.
“I am not going to get too excited about what happens in the game, and I am not going to get too down on what is behind us. I know when we start (the regular season), we are going to start even with everyone,” Ruff said. “I have had great training camps where your first few games – because you’ve had a great training camp – your work ethic in practice isn’t good, your focus isn’t good. I like the fact that they are upset about losing. They are upset that they haven’t been able to push through and win some of these tight games against good teams. I’d rather be in that place than the opposite one. We win it, I am going to put it away. If we lose it, I am going to put it away.”
Antti Niemi will get the start in goal and is expected to play the entire game. Ruff will go with a little bit different look with his defense pairings. Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg will stay together, but Ruff will put Jamie Oleksiak with Johnny Oduya and reunite Jordie Benn and Jason Demers.
“We’re going to look at Oleksiak playing with Johnny; those are two guys that we think are two very good shutdown guys,” Ruff said. “The pair of Benn and Demers was such a good pair late in the year and from a numbers category has been good through the preseason. We still have an opportunity to try a couple different things on defense and go from there.”
Forwards Jamie Benn and Ales Hemsky will be back in the lineup tonight, both getting in their second game of the preseason as they continue to push to get ready for the regular season following offseason hip surgery.
“They are both good to go. This was just part of the plan that they would play two of the last three (preseason games),” Ruff said. “They both feel good. It’s a tune-up for them and I think they should be better than the last game. I think they are looking as forward to play as I am looking forward to seeing them play.”
Benn will skate on a line with center Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp. Hemsky will skate on the second line, but it’s still not clear who will be his center. Center Jason Spezza didn’t skate Saturday morning. He was off due to a maintenance day but still could play Saturday. If Spezza doesn’t play, Mattias Janmark will center the second line.
Janmark survived Friday’s roster cuts and is still in the mix for a roster spot. Ruff echoed what GM Jim Nill said Friday, saying that the battle for the final roster spot at forward involves more than just Janmark and Curtis McKenzie.
“I would argue that it’s between a few more guys than you think it is for ice time because we are looking for production,” Ruff said. “There are some guys that have had no production in camp. I don’t think those are automatics.”
The players who skated late Saturday morning and are expected to be scratched tonight: defensemen Jyrki Jokipakka and Patrik Nemeth and forward Colton Sceviour.
Who: Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Valeri Nichushkin – Mattias Janmark/Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jamie Oleksiak
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Patrik Nemeth, Colton Sceviour
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.