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Nichushkin and Gonchar Practice; Ruff Discusses Play of Lindback

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Forward Valeri Nichushkin and defenseman Sergei Gonchar both were on the ice for practice Monday morning, but neither player is expected to be back anytime soon.

Nichushkin has missed the last six games with a groin/hip issue. Gonchar has yet to play a game. He suffered a fractured ankle during the preseason.

Both players have been skating on their own recently. Monday was their first time practicing with the team since they went out with their injuries.

“Both guys are progressing,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Val has had a couple good days. We didn’t know if he was going to make it through the whole practice, but he did. They are going to need a little time to get back in the grind. We’re at stage one and we are going to move them along.”

Asked if either player could be ready at some point this week, Ruff said that appeared unlikely.

“I don’t think so, no,” Ruff said. “They haven’t had any practice time. It’s going to take a bit. Sergei won’t be medically cleared for this week anyway, but he can get back at practice.”

Ruff discusses Lindback

Backup goaltender Anders Lindback was a topic of conversation during coach Lindy Ruff’s media availability on Monday. Lindback struggled in Saturday night’s 7-5 loss to the New York Islanders, allowing six goals on 28 shots. Lindback is 0-2-0 so far this season with a 4.58 goals against average and .850 save percentage.

Here’s a transcript of the discussion on Lindback.

Any talk today about Lindback’s performance and how you handle that?

“I had a meeting with him. He wants some of those (goals) back. He is really hard on himself. My job is to help support him. He knows he needs to play better. His practice habits and everything are good. We’re talking about some things – it’s not stuff I am going to discuss right now – we are talking about options to get him playing better.”

Does the competition with (Texas Stars goaltender) Jussi Rynnas still go on during the season?

“The answer, I think, ultimately is yes. You can put Rynnas in there. You can put [Jack] Campbell in there. You’ve got to play well. It’s no different than a fourth line player that goes in and out. You’ve got to play well. If you want to stay in you’ve got to play well. He understands his role and knows that he has to play well.”

If you are looking at options does it mean it is not too early to be critical of performances with such a small sample size?

“I want to do my best to give him the best chance to succeed. The Nashville game was OK. Maybe there was one goal you could criticize in that game. You go back-to-back (vs. the Islanders), we made him face some of the toughest opportunities. I didn’t like that part of it. There are a couple that go through him. I want him to clean up the ones that go through him. You can use whatever word you want. It’s a tough, tough job. I met with him this morning about just how can I help you?”

Looking forward, might you consider playing the backup on the first night of a back-to-back?

“No. I’ll take that two points on the first night. If you plan something you are going to win the second night or think it is going to be better the second night, you take it one game at a time. You worry about winning the game you are at, which we did. I felt the effort was there to win game two. For me, it was more than just the goaltender that lost the game. That was a team effort to lose the game for giving up a shorty, end-to-end two-on-ones. That’s not good team play.”

Stars practice lineup

Here’s how the Stars lined up in Monday’s practice

Jamie BennJason SpezzaTyler Seguin
Patrick EavesVernon FiddlerAles Hemsky
Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt
Erik ColeShawn HorcoffColton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzieValeri Nichushkin

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley
Jordie BennBrenden Dillon
Jyrki JokipakkaJamie Oleksiak
Kevin ConnautonSergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen
Anders Lindback

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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