The Forward Line Impresses on Day Three of Stars Training Camp
If an intra-squad scrimmage on the third day of training camp means anything, then the Stars’ offensive troubles this coming season have been greatly exaggerated.
The forward line consisting of center Mike Ribeiro
along with captain Brenden Morrow
and second-year winger Loui Eriksson
dazzled in the Stars’ scrimmage on Sunday, combining for four goals - three by Morrow - to lead the black-jerseyed team to a 5-2 victory. The session even attracted a nice crowd of a couple of hundred at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco.
Of course, it is just a battle amongst teammates and it’s very early, but the chemistry displayed by the trio, who generated scoring chances every time they hit the ice, was impressive nonetheless.
“They looked good,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s that fine line of seeing young guys and making sure they’re being put in a position where they’re playing with top players to see how they react to that (in the scrimmages), and then there’s other days when we want to just shuffle things, and put players that we think are possibly going to be combinations for us.
“That was a combination today that went out and played very well.”
While Morrow and Ribeiro formed a potent pair down the stretch in 2006-07, each producing at a point-per-game pace or better over the last 11 games of the regular season, the addition of Eriksson, who skated with them in three of those games, integrated very well.
“He fits in well there, because he is a complete player,” Tippett said of Eriksson. “Ribs is kind a guy who’s down around the bottom of the net, Brenden likes to go to the net a lot of the time, not that Loui doesn’t either, because Loui reads plays and can be a third guy high. They read off each other very well.”
“Nothing’s really changed,” Morrow said regarding how the three mesh together. “Ribs is kind of the playmaker, he holds onto the puck and I go to the net and I think Loui looks for another opening. We had a couple of bounces go our way. The (black) team’s 2-0 now.”
For Eriksson, who had the other goal by the line in the scrimmage, a player who’s trying to make an impression on the coaching staff and take on a more significant role entering his second season, it was a good time to shine.
“It felt good,” Eriksson said of his performance. “We played a little together the end of last season. Morrow is really the hard-working guy and Ribs is just a skilled guy. So it’s just fun to play with them. You have to be ready all the time in front of the net there when you play with (Ribeiro).”
“This is kind of the time where you get the coach’s attention,” Morrow said. “And we’ve got a lot of guys - I think 15 or 16 forwards to fight over 12 spots, so I think after today, Loui probably impressed them and made a good impression. Hopefully, we can keep that line together for awhile.”
For his part, Eriksson, who contributed six goals and 19 points in 59 games as a rookie last year, isn’t putting any additional burden on himself to deliver more offense this season, but he recognizes the expectations of him.
“Of course, I have pressure on me,” Eriksson acknowledged, “but I just think about it like this, it’s going to be fun just getting started again. I feel ready in my whole body and everything, so just excited about this year. I’ll have to stay focused, too, and play my game.”
“He’s a real complete player,” Tippett said. “He’s got good speed, he’s shown an ability to score in the minors. He hasn’t done it up here yet, but we’re hoping he’s one of those guys that can step up.”
Another player who Stars’ management believes will generate more offense this year is Morrow, who just needs to stay healthy. His hat trick in the scrimmage was a good start, although he wasn’t completely sure he’d gotten three after a couple of scrambles around the net.
“It depends,” he said. “I think the whistle probably should have blown on the one, but if they count those, because I’ve had some ugly ones in my career, I guess that would add up to three.”
Morrow produced six goals and 11 points in the final 11 games last season after he was teamed up with Ribeiro, who had seven goals and 14 points over that span, and finished 2006-07 with 16 goals and 31 points. If Morrow had played a full season at that pace, he would have produced a career-high 33 goals and 64 points (one short of the 65 he had in 2005-06). A duplicate performance this year would go a long way towards helping solve some of the club’s issues with offense.
“Brenden’s got an area where he scores in, he gets around the net and Ribs can make those plays out there,” Tippett said. “Brenden, he’s hard around the net. He’s shown a knack for scoring around there, and it’s one thing to score pretty goals, but you’ve got to take some grit to score some hard goals and he’s willing to do that.
“If he stays healthy and gets 30-plus, I think that’s something that we certainly (would welcome). Those aren’t unrealistic expectations for him.”
The offensive highlight of the scrimmage by a player not on that line was defenseman Trevor Daley
’s move into the slot and backhander that beat goaltender Marty Turco over the shoulder. Actually, Daley’s shot hit the crossbar and rebounded in off Turco’s back.
“I think it kind of rolled up Turks’ stick, but I’ll take them however I get them,” Daley said.
The pace of the individual practices before the scrimmage may not have reached quite the level as the first two days of camp as some players start to hit the proverbial wall a little bit. But overall, Tippett was pleased with how things went.
“It slowed down a little bit today, but that’s just third day,” Tippett said. “We’d gone pretty hard the first two days, so that’s to be expected, but still lots of intensity and lots of push, which is good.”
Also to be expected at this stage of camp are some minor strains and bumps and bruises, and while the Stars have their share of little ailments, none are considered serious.
Veteran forwards Jere Lehtinen and Stu Barnes sat out the proceedings with minor shoulder injuries while youngsters Vojetch Polak, Aaron Gagnon and John Lammers also missed time with various ailments. Francis Wathier
left the scrimmage with a shoulder injury.
“A lot of this, like with Lehts and Barnsie, it’s all just real cautious stuff,” Tippett said. “They’re not serious things at all, but they’re just situations where we’re not going to put them in jeopardy right now. If it’s an exhibition game, no (they wouldn’t play), if it’s a regular season game, maybe, and if it the playoffs, there’s no question (they’re playing). So that gives you a gauge on where it’s at.”
Even Ribeiro was hurt at the end of the scrimmage, but his leg injury is not considered anything serious, either.
“I don’t know what it is, if it’s an ankle or charley horse,” Tippett said. “Lower body. We’ll see. He’ll be all right. We’re not going to put anybody in jeopardy right now.”
The Stars will have one more day of intense practices before embarking on their pre-season schedule with three games in three nights. The stretch begins Tuesday with a Rookie Game against the St. Louis Blues’ rookies at 4 pm at American Airlines Center, followed by the ‘full roster’ exhibition match-up at 7:30 pm. A ticket to that evening’s pre-season game vs. St. Louis is required to attend the Rookie Game prior.