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Sunday Update: Stars ready for hostile environment as series shifts to Minnesota

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said forward Antoine Roussel’s work ethic and enthusiasm for the game can be contagious.

“It’s hard to find him where he doesn’t have a smile on his face or he’s not energetic,” Ruff said.

And what about Roussel now that the Stars are heading into a hostile environment, the kind they will face as their first-round playoff series shifts to Minnesota for Games 3 and 4?

“He’ll have an even bigger smile on his face,” Ruff said with a smile of his own. “He welcomes animosity; relishes the thought they are treating him as an antagonist.”

Roussel appears to have worked his way under the Minnesota Wild’s skin through the first two games of the series. The Minnesota media seem to be asking Wild coaches and players about Roussel every day, so he must be doing his job well. Now, he gets to take his show on the road.

“It’s going to be fun,” Roussel said. “It’s going to be loud. Can’t wait to play there. It’s a tough building, and it’s going to be a tough battle.”

Roussel and the Stars expect to face a revved-up Xcel Energy Center crowd for Game 3 of the series. Not just because it’s the playoffs. And not just because the Wild, down 0-2 in the series, are desperate for a win. There’s some history as well, specifically the move of the Stars from Minnesota to Dallas in 1993.

“[Former Stars owner Norm Green] still receives a lot of hate for moving the team,” Roussel said. “It will add some spice to it.”

Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski, a Minnesota native, was a young kid when the North Stars moved to Dallas back in 1993. He was just shy of his eighth birthday.

“For me it wasn’t really any big deal,” Goligoski said, “but I know for a little bit older age group than me, they weren’t too happy.”

The move from Minnesota to Dallas is a great sidebar story to the series, but it’s not front and center for the players.

“I think it is nice for the fans. I don’t think it really matters much to us,” Stars center Jason Spezza said. “We know it’s going to be a rowdy crowd, and they are going to try to give their team a lift, just like our crowd did to us. We’ll be ready for them.”

And Ruff said the Stars will look for ways to take the crowd out of the game and keep it from being an advantage for the Wild.

“There’s certain things you’d like to do early to make sure that you prevent the energy in that building from really getting loud or getting explosive, and a lot of that has to do with puck possession, where we get the puck and how we play,” Ruff said. “I’m going to talk to the team about their first game in an opposing building and what we’re going to try to do.”

As for Roussel, he has his own approach in mind.

“We are going to have to keep our cool,” he said, “have fun and enjoy the moment.”

*Stars center Tyler Seguin returned to the lineup Saturday after missing 11 games (ten regular season, one playoff) due to a cut to his Achilles tendon. He played 15:40 in Saturday’s game. Stars coach Lindy Ruff offered this assessment.

“I thought he looked OK,” Ruff said. “Like I said, it’s not easy getting back into a game. It’s not easy getting back into a regular-season game. I think Game 1 would have been an easier test. Game 2 had a lot of intensity, and it was his first challenge in almost five weeks.”

On Seguin’s health moving forward?

“It’s OK. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow,” Ruff said.

*Forward Mattias Janmark, who was a healthy scratch Saturday, is expected to be back in the lineup on Monday.

“That was just a coach’s decision,” Ruff said of Janmark sitting out Saturday. “Like I said last night, I’ve got some good, tough decisions to make. Just felt he was a guy that had missed some games, I put him back in, I thought played pretty well. I have nobody that hasn’t been playing well. Had him out, I didn’t plan on keeping him out for a while. I actually told him that he’d be going right back in [Monday].”

*Ruff didn’t say who would come out of the lineup with Janmark coming back in. He did say he likes what Valeri Nichushkin brings to the lineup.

“I like [Nichushkin’s] size; I like his skating. I know some of the production hasn’t been there, but he’s done [some good things],” Ruff said. “He was in on three scoring chances in Game 1, made a couple real nice plays but used his size effectively. When I went through the lineup, I’ll share those thoughts with you that I looked at size and thought we can still use size against these guys, they can’t bounce us off the puck and [Nichushkin]’s an important piece for us when it comes to that.”

*The Stars assigned RW Brett Ritchie to the Texas Star of the AHL Sunday.

*The Stars held an optional practice in Frisco Sunday morning before flying to Minnesota.

“He’s good with his feet. Good with his feet and like [Hemsky], it was a soccer goal. [Hemsky] to [Roussel], the Europeans are good with their feet, they didn’t even use their sticks on that play.”

- Stars coach Lindy Ruff when asked what makes Antoine Roussel an effective player

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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