The Dallas Stars were back on the ice for practice on Wednesday after taking Tuesday off. They were scheduled to practice Tuesday, but Stars coach Lindy Ruff decided to turn it into a day off after Monday’s 5-3 loss to the Calgary Flames.
“It wasn’t a scheduled day off but I really felt they needed another day off. I thought the energy in practice today was great. The attitude was good,” Ruff said. “There were some heavy heads and heavy hearts after [Monday’s] game. We put a lot of work into the game and end up losing. We’ve done that too many times at home. That takes a toll on you mentally. There was some frustration and disappointment. We had to clear their heads and get them ready. Today the practice was good, the energy was good and everybody’s heads were in the right place.”
The Stars missed on an opportunity to gain ground in the playoff race with Monday’s loss, but Winnipeg loss to the New York Rangers Tuesday and gave the Stars a glimmer of hope. It was the second straight loss for the Jets, both of them coming on a goal late in regulation. That’s kept the Stars within six points, but with just five games remaining.
“These five games are important. We know strange things happen in hockey. We’ve got to take care of our business,” Ruff said. “In Winnipeg’s case, they’ve had a couple of devastating losses that are keeping us in the picture. For us, it is try to take care of our own business and in the meantime hope the teams around us that need to lose, lose.”
The Stars forward lines had a little different look in Wednesday’s practice. The top three lines stayed the same, but Travis Moen and Colton Sceviour skated on the fourth line with Shawn Horcoff. Moen and Sceviour took the places of Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie, whom the Stars assigned to the AHL on Tuesday. With Moen ready to play after missing extended time with an upper-body injury and Valeri Nichushkin ready to return an AHL conditioning assignment later this week, the Stars have an excess of forwards.
“We’re getting healthy now,” Stars GM Jim Nill said. “Travis Moen is healthy now. Colton Sceviour had to sit out [as a healthy scratch]. And we have Val Nichushkin coming back. The young guys played very well, and as we’ve talked all season, I don’t want the young guys sitting out and being in and out of the lineup. What’s exciting is each time they’ve gone down to Austin and come back they’ve been a better player. That means they are getting developed the right way down in Austin.”
Nichushkin will play the final game of his three-game conditioning stint with the Texas Stars tonight, and then he’ll return to Dallas. He is expected to play one of Dallas’ two games this weekend.
“Val is playing in three games in five nights and then we’ve got a back-to-back. My plan would be to get him in one of the two [this weekend],” Ruff said. “I don’t think playing five games in nine nights is a good thing for him. We’ll see where we are Friday. He’s playing tonight, and we’ll see how he plays.
“It’s monitoring where he is at after the games, if there is any fatigue or any soreness. There’s no set schedule for the injury or the rehab. Obviously, he is back playing. We want to make sure we do the right thing, and there are no setbacks with him.”
Nichushkin has played two games with Texas so far, registering no points and seven shots on goal. Ruff said it’s been a mixed bag for the young forward as he jumps into a playoff race with Texas after not playing for several months.
“It’s taken him a while to get into the game. The second game he skated really well in the second half of the game,” Ruff said. “He’s in a tough situation where they are battling hard to get [playoff] positioning, and he’s coming off from not playing and not competing. I’ve heard there are some situations where he has really looked good, and there are some situations where he’s looked like he is just behind. If you’re behind at that level, you are going to look behind at this level too. We know it is going to take time, and this is all part of the process.”
Jordie Benn sits out practice
Defenseman Jordie Benn, who has missed the past two games with back soreness, did not skate Wednesday. Ruff said Benn could skate Thursday.
“Jordie is real close to skating again,” Ruff said. “He could have maybe skated today, but we decided to hold him off. I would think he would skate tomorrow.”
Stars practice lines
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin
Patrick Eaves – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Travis Moen – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
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.