“It’s good to get back out there,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We had a lot of young guys out there today and a couple of veterans and we finally got the coaches out there too. It was a good first day and it was a pretty hard practice.”
The players were split into three groups for Friday’s sessions. Group A, which was first on the ice, ran drills. Groups B and C scrimmaged, playing three 15-minute periods.
“Players are excited to get back at it and I think in the first practice, we had a lot of enthusiasm,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
There is a lot of excitement as the Stars open camp. They are coming off a 2013-14 season that saw them secure a playoff berth for the first time in five years. The offseason additions of center Jason Spezza and right Alex Hemsky have created more excitement.
“It’s everyone,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “The players want to see where they are going to fit in. There is lots of competition here, which is good. That will make our team even better. I think we are excited after last season because the team made big strides. It’s an exciting time of year, there is that hockey buzz back in the air and we are looking forward to it.”
“I think [making the playoffs] has given our group a lot more confidence coming into this year,” said Benn. “I’ve said it before, Jim Nill has done a great job in bringing in some more players to make us competitive. I said it earlier, we’ve got a little more confidence now and we definitely want to improve on last year.”
The Stars have two more days scheduled in Fort Worth. There will be practice sessions and more scrimmages on Saturday. On Sunday, the team will hold an intra-squad scrimmage. With more than 20 forwards skating in camp right now, Ruff is mixing and matching younger players and veterans before he starts honing in on possible line combinations down the road.
“The first three days, we’d like players to play with everybody. Some of the guys that played in the American League and some of the guys in juniors will play with them,” Ruff said. “You saw [Jason Dickinson] playing with Benn today in practice. We’ll mix it up and we know what worked well for us. Going forward, we know some pairs will definitely be together. We’ll try in the scrimmage in the next few days some combinations and take a look at them. For the most part, we’ll get in some preseason games and put some lines together and see if they jell. We’ll put some lines together in practice to see how they look.”
Then on Monday the team plays its first preseason game, hosting St. Louis at American Airlines Center. It will be those preseason games where Stars management will be taking a close look as players compete for roster spots and where they’ll fit in the lineup.
“Right now the guys are practicing and scrimmaging, but once we get to exhibition games things will start to weed themselves out,” said Nill. “We’ve got some young kids that are pushing. We’ve got some great veterans that are showing their leadership. For the coaches, they are going to want to see how guys fit together, different line combinations and defense pairings. Lots of decisions over the next two weeks.”
Dillon, Eakin not in camp
Two notable absences as camp opened on Friday were center Cody Eakin and defenseman Brendan Dillon. The two restricted free agents are still in talks with the Stars about new contracts.
“We’ve been having communications, but that’s the way it goes. I hope we have something done here quick,” Stars GM Jim Nill said prior to camp opening. “But it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up. We knew there was going to be healthy competition even if they were here, but it is even more competition now. We saw in Traverse City that there are some good young players knocking on the door, and we know guys from Texas are knocking on the door. It’s good competition, we hope to get these guys back so they can get their game going, but we’ll move on without them and go from there.”
Injury notes: Peverley update
*Stars forward Rich Peverley continues to recover from surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat. Peverley is at training camp, but he is not skating.
“Rich has been cleared to work out, but he is not cleared to go on the ice,” Nill said. “We are going to monitor that and we still need to get some more results from doctors. It’s going to be a week-to-week thing. We are not going to rush it and he has to get comfortable and we still have to get clearance from some other doctors.”
Asked if Peverley is improving, Nill had this to say.
“I would say he has improved,” Nill said. “He has been monitored over the summer, he’s been working out and to get the green light now that he can continue his training and ramp it up is probably the best news we can get. We’ll go from there.”
*Forward Valeri Nichushkin is dealing with a groin injury, but he did practice on Friday, skating for almost the entire first session.
“He’s been struggling a little bit with a groin issue, so he hasn’t skated for the past week,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Today, he practiced through three-quarters of practice, which is good.”
*Ruff also provided updates on Colton Sceviour (shoulder) and John Klingberg (hip), who both had offseason surgery.
“Close to 100 percent,” Ruff said. “There are limitations. [Sceviour] does need a little more time. He’s cleared for contact, but we’re monitoring that. Klingberg is probably a little ahead of him.”
*Right wing Brett Ritchie, who broke the tip of his right pinkie finger at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City last Saturday, skated in a red no-contact jersey Friday. He is expected to be out another week.
Quotable: Jamie Benn on referring to himself as an older guy
“I was talking to Ralphie [Strangis] about this. I don’t know if I’m still a young guy or a veteran yet. I think I’m kind of a tweener. I’m not sure what I am. I’ll let you guys decide.”
Jamie Benn – Jason Dickinson – Colton Sceviour
Brett Pollock – Shawn Horcoff – Branden Troock
Brendan Ranford – Travis Morin – Valeri Nichushkin/Derek Hulak
Defense: Kevin Connauton, Cameron Gaunce, Sergei Gonchar, John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth (mixed pairings)
Goaltenders: Anders Lindback, Jussi Rynnas
Antoine Roussel – Tyler Seguin – Erik Cole
Curtis McKenzie – Justin Dowling – Scott Glennie
Nicolas Blanchard – Radek Faksa – Remi Elie
Defense: Maxime Fortunus, Alex Goligoski, Derek Meech, Jamie Oleksiak, Troy Vance (mixed pairings)
Goaltenders: Jack Campbell, Kari Lehtonen
Ryan Garbutt – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Patrick Eaves – Vernon Fiddler – Ludwig Karlsson
Gemel Smith – Taylor Peters – Matej Stransky
Defense: Jordie Benn, Trevor Daley, Julius Honka, Jyrki Jokipakka (mixed pairings)
Goalies: Philippe Desrosiers, Henrik Kiviaho, Maxime Lagace
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.