After a day off Wednesday, the Dallas Stars were back on the ice for practice Thursday morning in Frisco.
“It’s nice to recharge the batteries, especially with how things have been going the last six or seven months – go, go, go, go, go,” said defenseman Brenden Dillon. “It was good to get a good day of practice and we’ll be ready to go.”
The day off came after the Stars played four games in six days, including the back-to-back against Winnipeg and Chicago Monday and Tuesday. But the schedule gets even tougher moving forward. Starting with Friday’s game against Nashville at American Airlines Center, the Stars will have 10 games over the final 17 days of the season. Wednesday’s day off was needed, and so was Thursday’s practice, because there may not be practice days ahead due to the schedule.
“I thought we had a good day of practice,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We have another back-to-back and then we have another practice day. I don’t know if I can find another one (practice day). The schedule gets pretty intense for us.”
It’s an intense schedule on a couple fronts. There are a lot of games in a short amount of time and those ten games will determine whether the Stars get into the playoffs. They currently sit three points behind Phoenix with one game in hand. The Coyotes play tonight at New Jersey, and scoreboard watching has become part of the routine as the Stars head down the stretch.
“It’s tough not to,” said Dillon. “After a game the first thing you do is get on your phone and check the game center to see what some of the game scores were. It’s the last sprint to the finish and every point is important and every game is important. You’d like to get some help from certain teams, but you want to take care of yourself.”
And that starts with Friday’s game against Nashville.
Whitney questionable for Friday, Cole still out
Forward Ray Whitney did not practice Thursday and is questionable for Friday’s game against Nashville.
“He’s got the flu, so it will be a question mark if he’ll be available for tomorrow,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
If Whitney can’t go, the Stars likely would need to bring up a forward from the Texas Stars of the AHL.
Forward Erik Cole remains out with an upper body injury. Ruff indicated that Cole will miss Friday’s game and Saturday’s game in St. Louis as well.
“Still isn’t going to be available,” Ruff said. “We’re hopeful that we get past these two games , but the longer it goes without practice and exercising the tougher it is going to be for him to get back in immediately and if he gets in immediately, how effective can he be without practice time.”
Thursday’s practice lineup
With Erik Cole and Ray Whitney not skating, defenseman Kevin Connauton skated as a forward to give the Stars four full lines for practice. Here is how the Stars lined up in Thursday’s session.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Kevin Connauton – Dustin Jeffrey – Alex Chiasson
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Aaron Rome – Sergei Gonchar
Not skating: Ray Whitney (illness), Eric Cole (upper body), Rich Peverley (irregular heartbeat)
Stars sign prospect Guptill
The Stars Thursday announced the signing of left wing Alex Guptill to a two-year entry-level contract. Guptill, a third round pick (77th overall) in 2010, just completed his junior season at the University of Michigan, where he had 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 31 games. The highly skilled forward had 94 points (44 goals, 54 assists) in 110 games during his three-year career at Michigan.
The 22-year-old Ontario native is expected to join the Texas Stars of the AHL in the near future on an amateur tryout contract.
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.