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Ruff changing things up to try to get Stars back on track

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

With the Dallas Stars mired in their first losing streak of the season, coach Lindy Ruff is shaking up things a bit as the team prepares to take on Winnipeg Thursday at American Airlines Center.

Ruff put the team, which is coming off an 0-2-1 road trip, through a full practice Wednesday afternoon in Frisco but will have players skip a morning skate on Thursday.

“The energy out there today was tremendous,” Ruff said. “The reason we were out there today was just to get the bad blood out, feel good about yourself, know we gave some points away. If we had done a few better things we could have won the first two games [of the trip]. It’s my responsibility to get these guys in the right mindset, playing the game the right way again.”

Tuesday’s game was the Stars’ seventh in 11 days since the NHL’s holiday break. Thursday’s game will make it eight games in 13 days. Ruff is looking for ways to give the team a shot of energy. He could have kept them off the ice Wednesday and done the usual pregame skate Thursday morning. But he’s decided to try something different.

“For me, I am going to do some things of creating some different energy,” Ruff said. “We’ve tried the game-day skate. We are going to skate today and nothing tomorrow. We are going to bring them fresh to the rink and ready to go. Give them tomorrow off to rest and be ready. Today was get that flight out of you, feel good, see your teammates and realize you are starting all over again.”

Players said the full practice Wednesday and the morning off Thursday could pay dividends.

“I think it was a good idea to skate today, get that flight out of us,” said captain Jamie Benn. “Now, we can just focus on tomorrow and a big game and try to get back on track here. I am looking forward to tomorrow that’s for sure.”

Added center Tyler Seguin: “Sometimes losing three games in a row you’ve got to get away from the game, take some time to not even think about hockey and relax. [No morning skate] is a great idea. I am going to take advantage of it.”

Ruff also made some changes with his forward lines, splitting up Seguin and Benn, who had a rough road trip. Seguin and Benn both failed to register a point during the three-game road trip, and both were a minus-five.

Benn skated on a line with Jason Spezza and Valeri Nichushkin. Seguin centered Mattias Janmark and Patrick Sharp.

“It’s not a long solution; it’s a short solution,” Ruff said. “I think sometimes when there is some frustration, and you separate them it can create some energy. That might be a period; it might be a game. I don’t know what it is. To a man, I think they know they struggled, and it was a tough trip for them.”

The forward lines in Wednesday’s practice looked like this:

Jamie BennJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Mattias JanmarkTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Antoine RousselCody EakinColton Sceviour

Travis Moen/Radek FaksaVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Ruff also said he is considering getting Patrick Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak in a game. Oleksiak has not played in the past 12 games and Nemeth the past ten. And the Stars might need some fresh legs considering the schedule.

“If you asked me today, I would have put a couple of different guys in but I didn’t have that luxury,” Ruff said. “I can second guess. The way the guys have been going, they deserved to play. Did some guys have poor games? Yeah. Did you wish you’d put somebody different in? Yeah, for sure. But as a whole, [Tuesday’s game in New York] was a team debacle. That wasn’t on one or two guys. Do we need to put a couple fresh guys in? Yeah, I believe so now.”

Stars forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were selected to play for the Central Division in this year’s NHL All-Star Game, which will be a 3-on-3 tournament featuring teams from the four NHL divisions. Stars coach Lindy Ruff will coach the Central Division team.

This will be Benn’s second All-Star Game appearance.

“Obviously, to represent Dallas in the All-Star Game, it’s going to be pretty cool and to do it alongside [Seguin] and obviously Lindy, is going to be pretty good,” Benn said. “I think [thee-on-three] will spice it up a bit and will give it a little bit more intensity. I think there’s going to obviously be a lot more skating and a little more skill involved, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Seguin will make his third trip to the All-Star Game.

“It’s always a privilege and definitely an honor to get recognized as one of the All-Star guys and get to go,” Seguin said. “I think this year’s kind of even more exciting just with the new stuff they have going on and some stuff I’m not even really sure about, but I’ll find out when I get over to Nashville, so it’s going to be fun.”

Seguin said he is looking forward to playing under Ruff.

“It’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be fun,” Seguin said. “I am looking forward to see what his lines are going to be for three-on-three, or if he is splitting Jamie and I up or if I am playing with [Patrick] Kane or what is going to happen.”

Ruff, who will be serving as a head coach for the third time at the All-Star Game, said he is looking forward to the new format, which he thinks will breathe some new life into the contest.

“The reason for the change is to try to create some excitement and create some competition,” he said. “These players get to operate at the highest skill level with a lot of [open] ice. I am going to feel sorry for the goalies. If the players are motivated to win this thing, it could be a lot more exciting than past ones.”

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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