The Dallas Stars were missing three forwards at Monday’s practice in Frisco, and all three are question marks for Tuesday’s game against Ottawa at American Airlines Center.
Tyler Seguin was sick and went home. Jamie Benn, who has an undisclosed injury, worked out off ice. Also working out off ice was Vernon Fiddler, who left Saturday’s in Denver game with a lower body injury.
“All three of them are questionable,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Tyler is our best chance of playing. The other two are questionable.”
Forward Erik Cole, who missed Saturday’s game at Colorado due to illness, did practice Monday, and it appears he’ll be a go for Tuesday’s game.
Spezza set to face former team
The media contingent at Monday’s practice was a little larger than usual. Ottawa media were on hand to talk to Stars center Jason Spezza, who will face the Ottawa Senators for the first time since he was traded to Dallas. The Stars host the Senators Monday night at American Airlines Center.
“I don’t think it’s that bad with them coming here because it is on your turf,” Spezza said. “Going to Ottawa is going to be strange for sure, to walk into the building and into the visitors room. It was nice to catch up. I saw some of the guys yesterday and will catch up with a few more guys today. I think it is different when it is on your terms and in your rink. It will be different when I go back to Ottawa.”
Spezza has 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) and is averaging 17:23 of ice time per game while playing primarily as the Stars second-line center.
“I don’t have the same role here that I had in Ottawa, where I am playing 20 minutes a game. I am slotted in a good spot here. It’s a different challenge for me,” Spezza said. “I am still trying to find my game a little bit, being on a new team. But it is exciting, coming to a new team and having a new challenge and a new group to build with. It’s something that is driving me right now to work on my game.”
Both Stars GM Jim Nill and coach Lindy Ruff said there has been an adjustment phase for Spezza coming to the Western Conference with its tougher travel schedule and bigger, physical teams.
“He’s been good. I think there’s been a little bit of an adjustment to playing out West,” said Ruff. “I think this past month-and-a-half he and Hemmer (Ales Hemsky) have started to come around. Changing teams is tough, that adjustment, style of play and going to the conference are a big deal.”
Added Nill: “I think he is frustrated a little bit and would like to have a few more points. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment period for him, coming out West and a little bit different game, but I think he has adjusted well.”
The Stars acquired Spezza and forward Ludwig Karlsson in exchange for right wing Alex Chiasson, prospects Nicholas Paul and Alex Guptill and a second-round draft pick in 2015. The Stars signed Spezza to a four-year, $30 million contract extension in late November.
Stars at the midway point: ‘Inconsistent’
The Stars hit the midway point of the season with Saturday’s game in Denver. They are 18-16-7 (43 points) and sit five points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Both Stars GM Jim Nill and coach Lindy Ruff talked about the team’s performance through 41 games, and both started with the same word.
“Inconsistent,” said Ruff. “I think our play is better than our record indicates because there some games we played great and lost, and there has been more of those. Even the Colorado game (Saturday) was a game I don’t think we should lose. That’s probably the frustrating part. I think we started the season not playing well enough defensively, and now we are playing well enough defensively to win almost every game.”
“I would say inconsistency,” said Nill. “We’re disappointed. The league is very competitive. We’ve been inconsistent. There are nights when we can play with anybody, and there are other nights where we have given away a lot of points. That’s been tough. I look around the league and think that is the NHL right now, too. You see teams go on 8-2 runs and then go on 4-6 runs. The league is tight. There are maybe four teams happy where they are, and there are four teams at the bottom that you figure that’s where they are at. The rest of us are in a battle. There are 12-15 teams that are in a battle every night. It’s tight.
“Our power play has to be better. To win in the league, you have to get power play goals. That makes a difference,” Nill said. “I think our defensive part of the game has to get better. With that comes better goaltending and better defensive play. When we made that run here about a week ago that’s how we were playing. We have to play that way to be successful.”
“It’s indicative of the year he has had. He’s been dynamite for us. It’s almost like you know he is going to be there. You congratulate him, but you knew he was going to be there. It’s great. It shows the hard work he has put in and the year he has had.”
Jason Spezza on Tyler Seguin being selected to play in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game
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.