Day one of Dallas Stars training camp is in the books. Players were split into three groups and each group practiced for one hour and 15 minutes at Cedar Park Center.
“Day one was really good,” said coach Lindy Ruff. “We had some system stuff; we had some compete. It was a hard day. It was a tough first day for the players.”
“I am still smiling,” center Tyler Seguin said after his practice session. “It was nice to get back into drills, the drills you recognize from last year, midseason stuff. It was tough, but it was exciting tough. After the practice, you were gassed, but we’ve been gearing up for this all summer.”
The summer brought the additions of goaltender Antti Niemi, defenseman Johnny Oduya and forward Patrick Sharp. All three went through their first official practice with the Stars on Friday.
“It feels good. The first day it always feels a little nervous and feels like the first day of school, but it was a lot of fun,” said Oduya, who signed as a free agent. “It was a nice practice, and it was nice to get going.”
“It felt good,” said Sharp, acquired in a trade with Chicago. “It’s been a few weeks now that I’ve been part of the organization. I’ve settled in; I feel comfortable with the team, the locker room, and the organization. They’ve been first class in welcoming me to town. I love the uniforms. It felt great to get that first practice out of the way. It was a high pace out there, good competition. It was all good for the first day.”
The offseason additions have created a lot of buzz around the Stars heading into this season. Throw in a solid finish to last season and there is a strong sense of optimism around the team as well.
“We’ve made ourselves better everywhere and with that expectations go up. We were disappointed with how our year went last year, but we are optimistic coming into this season,” said center Jason Spezza. “I think we have more of an identity of what we need to do as a team. The additions of Antti, Sharpie and Johnny on the backend, those are three veteran guys that have won games and will help us through the season.”
Friday’s sessions at Cedar Park Center, which were open to the public, were well-attended. Among those watching the second session were about 300 energetic elementary school students who got a few chants going.
“The atmosphere was great,” Ruff said. “The setup is tremendous. It’s a great option for us for camp. We had some fans out, some kids out today and it was fun to see.”
Focus on defending
Defending is a big focus for the Stars this season. They struggled on the team defense front early last season, and it was a factor in them getting off to a poor start.
“Our drills today were mainly defensive zone stuff, coverage in the neutral zone or just competing in general,” center Tyler Seguin said. “The message has been clear all summer long, the message has been clear day one of training camp, and we’re going to follow it up with consistent D zone play.”
“We are talking about playing the game the right way,” said coach Lindy Ruff. “We had some disappointing losses (last season) because we weren’t playing the right way. We didn’t stay above the puck in some situations, and we gave up some big opportunities looking for more offense when we had enough goals to win some games last year. I think the last 30-40 games we were locked into a real good style. The message is to continue with that. I know we are going to score goals. I don’t think that is going to be a problem. I think it is being ready to compete in those 2-1 games and keeping it a 2-1 game and locking down leads that we gave up last year.”
Benn feeling good after first practice
Stars captain Jamie Benn was among the first group of players to hit the ice in Cedar Park Friday morning. Benn is coming off surgery on both his hips this offseason and the Dallas captain said he felt fine after the first practice of training camp.
“I felt pretty good,” Benn said. “I put in a lot of hard work this summer, working with the trainers and [strength and rehabilitation coach Brad Jellis] in the gym just trying to get into practice shape, game shape. I thought day one went pretty well.”
The Stars said they will be careful with Benn and forward Ales Hemksy, who also had offseason surgery on his hip.
“When you look at Hemsky and Benn, both of them had really good practices,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “I thought they looked pretty good. They won’t scrimmage [Saturday], we’ll keep them in the practice, but I would anticipate them scrimmaging the day after or within a couple days.”
*F Travis Moen (knee) did not practice on day one of camp.
*F Brett Ritchie (wrist surgery) is expected to be out until December.
“Defense is a team thing. You just don’t want to have your defense played by defensemen and the goaltender. You want the full commitment from everybody. When you do that it can create a lot of offense, too. That is something we started working on today, and we are going to keep working.”
-Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves/Taylor Peters
Jason Dickinson – Devin Shore –Brendan Ranford
Derek Hulak – Mattias Janmark – Branden Troock
Jyrki Jokipakka – Alex Goligoski
Mattias Backman – Julius Honka
Alex Peters – Jesse Blacker
Antoine Roussel – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Remi Elie – Vernon Fiddler – Matej Stransky
Brandon Magee – Justin Dowling – Brett Pollock/Mads Eller
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Esa Lindell – Jamie Oleksiak
Brennan Evans – Aaron Haydon
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky/Cory Kane
Curtis McKenzie – Travis Morin – Colton Sceviour
Gemel Smith/Emil Molin – Radek Faksa – Cole Ully
Jordie Benn – John Klingberg
Ludwig Bystrom – Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth – Matt Mangene
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.