The Dallas Stars held their first scrimmage of training camp on Saturday, and it was a good day for the team’s top two goaltenders.
There was no scoring in the first half of the scrimmage with goaltenders Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi manning the two nets. Lehtonen stopped all 14 shots he faced, and Niemi stopped all ten shots he saw, including a penalty shot by Cody Eakin. Lehtonen and Niemi, acquired in a trade with San Jose, will be vying for playing time in the Dallas net this season.
“They’ve got a tremendous attitude. They like each other; they’ve been pushing each other,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “They are working hard trying to make sure they are ready for the start of the season, and I thought they were both sharp. You watch them in practice, and you hope you get them in the right place when the season starts.”
Lehtonen, coming off a rough 2014-15 season, was particularly sharp, including one sequence where he made several stops on close range bids.
“It was nice to start that way,” Lehtonen said. “Things were going well, and it gives me excitement going forward. You never know how it is going to go, especially the first day, so far so good. I just have to keep working.”
Team White (Group C) won the scrimmage 4-3 over Team Green (Group A). Colton Sceviour scored two goals for the White and Stephen Johns and Cole Ully also scored. Taylor Peters, Devin Shore (penalty shot) and Patrick Eaves (3-on-3) scored for the Green.
“I thought Sceviour and [Jason] Spezza looked good,” Ruff said. “The goalies both looked good, our starters (Lehtonen and Niemi) looked good in the first half. I thought the defense moved well as a group. I thought our skating on the backend was noticeable.”
Stars work on 3-on-3
At the end of Saturday’s scrimmage, the Stars played five minutes of 3-on-3 hockey. This season, the NHL will use 3-on-3 in regular season overtime instead of 4-on-4. The goal is to end more games in OT and have fewer decided by a shootout.
“I think it’s nice,” said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. “There’s going to be a lot of space out there. There are going to be a lot more games being decided before the penalty shots, so I think that is a good thing.”
On Saturday, Patrick Eaves scored just 16 seconds into the 3-on-3 session. The Stars, however, played the full five minutes to work on some things.
“It’s going to be tough because some of the elite skill is going to create chances. As soon as you miss a chance you are going to give up a chance,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “If you don’t take advantage of your chance, there is going to be a chance coming the other way. That was pretty evident. We played a couple different styles; there were a couple things we were trying – from a zone defense to man-on-man. We are going to try something else tomorrow and a couple of other things before we get to the actual three-on-three.”
Top line speculation
Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp were not among the players in Saturday’s scrimmage, but they did practice together in the morning and skated as one of the forward lines. There’s been a lot of speculation that those three players could make up the team’s top line when the season starts.
“Sounds great but that is all going to be up to Lindy [Ruff],” Seguin said. “But scrimmaging around with Patrick the last few days and that righty-to-righty, quick shots and quick release, it’s fun to see and it’s going to be fun to experiment with.”
“It would be great,” said Benn. “I think you’ll see a lot of different line combinations throughout the year. I think one of the strengths of our team is that we’ve got options, we’ve got a lot of depth up front. We can kind of play around with it and have fun.”
“They are incredible players. Their reputation speaks for itself,” Sharp said. “But if you go up and down the lineup, there are great players all over. I am not sure where I am going to fit in; I am just trying to get ready to play in October. I am sure lines and units switch all the time. I’ll be ready for whatever they throw at me and no matter who I am playing with I know there will be some great players out there.”
Notes: Benn, Hemsky won’t scrimmage Sunday
Jamie Benn and Ales Hemsky will not participate in Sunday’s Victory Green-White intrasquad scrimmage at Cedar Park Center. The Stars continue to be cautious with Benn and Hemsky, who both are coming off hip surgery during the offseason.
“We thought there might be an opportunity, but we want to make sure they are ready to go,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “They’ve both had two real good practices, but they are still not ready for that physical compete at that high a level. We’ve got an opportunity to take some time with them.”
Forward Travis Moen (knee) did not practice for a second straight day. It could be next week before he begins skating.
“Moen had a little procedure and probably won’t skate until mid-week next week for the first time,” Ruff said. “Hopefully after that, he is ready to go.”
*Victory Green-White intrasquad scrimmage lineups on Sunday can be found here
Saturday’s practice lineups
Group A (Scrimmage)
Brendan Ranford – Cody Eakin – Patrick Eaves
Jason Dickinson – Mattias Janmark – Branden Troock
Derek Hulak – Devin Shore – Taylor Peters
Alex Goligoski – Jyrki Jokipakka
Mattias Backman – Julius Honka
Alex Peters – Jesse Blacker
Group C (Scrimmage)
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Colton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzie – Radek Faksa – Cole Ully
Gemel Smith – Travis Morin – Emil Molin
Jordie Benn – John Klingberg
Patrik Nemeth – Matt Mangene
Ludwig Bystrom – Stephen Johns
Group B (Practice)
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Matej Stransky – Justin Dowling – Mads Eller
Remi Elie – Brandon Magee – Brett Pollock
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Brennan Evans – Jamie Oleksiak
Esa Lindell – Aaron Haydon
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.