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Stars go back to Square One

by Staff Writer / Dallas Stars

November 16, 2003

By J. Douglas Foster

Even the most novice hockey fan, had they attended Sunday's Dallas Stars practice, could easily tell exactly where coach Dave Tippett wants his team to start in hopes of ending its current six-game winless streaks.

That's because the entire workout consisted of a few, simple game details: Most notably, winning one-on-one battles, getting the puck out of their own zone quickly and keeping it in the other squad's zone as long as possible.

Basics that are necessary in winning hockey. Basics that Tippett didn't feel his team was executing of late.

"Let's get to work. It's getting embarrassing," said Tippett, just returned from surgery on Friday to relieve a herniated disc in his neck. "You can talk about being a team that is hard to play against, but until you do it and show that a little bit, it's all smoke.

"There are some things we need to get more people committed to doing. It's whatever it takes to win, and winning one-on-one battles is a big part of that."

That was apparent from Tippett's workout Sunday, as the last half of practice consisted of two-man groups, on separate ends of the ice, battling each other one-on-one for pucks, then trying to outduel their individual opponent and get a shot off against that opponent and a goaltender.

It was intense.

It was physical.

It was obviously making a statement.

"We're starting at the beginning again -- starting all over," Stars forward Steve Ott said. "It comes down to the team that wins the most battles usually wins the game. We're not winning enough in the defensive zone, in the offensive zone, in the neutral zone or on the walls. All those little battles add up.

"Last night it looked like we were getting pushed off the puck all over the ice (in a 3-0 loss to Colorado), so that's why we're out here going hard at it today."

It wasn't just a day about one-on-one battles, however. There was also a focus on being more consistent in getting pucks out of the Stars' defensive end and not allowing teams to set up shop in their zone.

"That's something we have to be better at," Stars right wing Scott Young said. "The whole object of the game is to get the puck out of your end as quickly as possible and getting it into their end."

For Tippett, Sunday's practice was one he had not intended in having initially. After all, being just two days removed from his surgery, Tippett, as much as anyone, probably needed the day off.

But having watched Saturday's road loss on television, he decided the practice was necessary.

"When you are down on the bench in the heat of the action the first impressions are different," Tippett said. "The first impression is more drastic when you step away (and watch on television)."

The good news from Sunday's practice was that Jere Lehtinen, out since Oct. 11 with a back injury, went through his most physical practice yet and competed in the one-on-one drills.

Tippett said Lehtinen might play Wednesday against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, while Lehtinen said he's just hoping to wake up tomorrow feeling fine.

"It feels good, so we'll see how it responds," Lehtinen said. "We'll see how I feel the rest of today and tomorrow morning. It was a pretty hard first day (in physical contact). I just jumped right in, so it's good to get a good test right away."

Tippett said defenseman Richard Matvichuk, who suffered an ankle injury Saturday night, would be probable for Wednesday's game. Center Pierre Turgeon, who suffered a neck strain Friday against Phoenix, is listed as questionable.

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