The Dallas Stars will play their sixth preseason game of 2015, taking on the Lightning in Tampa on Thursday. The Stars are 1-4-0 in preseason play, and coach Lindy Ruff gave an evaluation of his team’s play so far on Thursday morning.
“On the offensive side, I don’t think we’ve been very good at finishing opportunities. We’ve had some pretty good opportunities inside games that we haven’t finished,” Ruff said. “Defensively, the numbers have been up but the number of opportunities have been down. There’s some stuff that we’ve tried to change and with changes it takes time for those adjustments to take place, and for guys to get used to them.”
Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal tonight against Tampa Bay. It will be the final start of the preseason for Lehtonen, who has been alternating games with Antti Niemi.
The Stars will take another look at the forwards battling for a roster spot. Curtis McKenzie, who has been out with an undisclosed injury, is among that group. McKenzie skated Thursday morning and will play in Tampa; so will the other forwards vying for that final roster spot – Remi Elie, Radek Faksa and Mattias Janmark.
“It’s going to be an interesting two games when it comes down to who is playing the best here and who is going to be in the lineup,” Ruff said.
Asked on the process of selecting the guy who will be on the roster opening, Ruff was quick to respond.
“I’ll tell you right now that they will make that decision for me,” Ruff said.
Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak, who sat out the last game, will play tonight on defense. Alex Goligoski and Johnny Oduya will get the night off. Among the forwards sitting out tonight will be Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky.
Benn and Hemsky, who both had offseason hip surgery, made their preseason debuts on Tuesday. They are expected to play in the preseason finale in Chicago on Saturday.
Power play work
The Stars spent a lot of time on special teams during Thursday’s skate. Ruff wasn’t thrilled with the power play in Tuesday’s game against St. Louis. It went 0-5 and didn’t generate much in the way of chances.
“I think it is chemistry and something you have to work on,” said defenseman John Klingberg. “There’s also focus. Maybe the focus really wasn’t there the last game. I think we need to help each other out a little better. It has to be better, so we have to work on that.”
“I just want some cohesiveness,” Ruff said. “We’ve have had so many different looks and so many different guys playing because some of the veteran guys have been out. I just want us to be on the same page where we get in there, move it around and get one or two good looks. Simplify it a little bit with one unit and the other unit has a little more of a veteran presence and let them do their thing.”
*The players who skated Thursday but who are not expected to play against Tampa Bay: Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, Alex Goligoski, Johnny Oduya, Colton Sceviour, Jason Dickinson
*Dickinson returned to practice after missing a few days with an undisclosed injury.
Who: Dallas Stars at Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: Amalie Arena
When: 6:30 p.m.
Stars projected lineup
Valeri Nichushkin – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Cody Eakin – Remi Elie
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Patrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Patrick Nemeth – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – 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.