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Wednesday update: Ruff seeking consistency

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stars coach Lindy Ruff was frustrated after Tuesday night’s 5-1 win over Columbus. It was an up and down effort to the Stars, who played a poor first period but broke the game open with three goals in the second.

The Stars have had their share of ups and downs in recent games and Ruff said he is still seeking more consistency from his team.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Ruff said following Wednesday’s practice in Frisco. “We’ve played some really good hockey. We’ve played some really good hockey inside some games. We’ve played two out of three periods. I said the day before; we are trying to become more consistent. I thought last night we played 30 minutes. With a team coming in that played back-to-back, that was pretty frustrating. Their heads weren’t in the right place. It’s my job to get them there.”

There have been some rough patches for the Stars lately. Ruff pointed to last Tuesday’s game against Carolina in which the Stars blew a 5-1 third-period lead. There was the third period in Calgary at the beginning of the month when the Stars squandered a three-goal lead and ended up falling in a shootout.

“Teams are going to make a push,” Ruff said. “If they come hard with five guys with a lot of risk on the table, you get a team on the heels. Sometimes we haven’t reacted well to that. There are times where we really have. We have to get back to getting people in better places.”

There have been some slow starts recently as well. Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jackets was one. Saturday’s game against St. Louis was another. Ruff mentioned it after Tuesday’s game, and he touched on it again Wednesday – the Stars have a target on their backs as the team with the best record in the NHL. They get more attention from the opposition, and the team needs to get used to that.

“We’re in a place that a lot of guys haven’t been before, and we’ve got to handle it better,” Ruff said. “We are at the top of the league. We’ve got teams that are really paying attention to what our strengths are, and I am trying to find an extra two or three percent here or there to help them on their way.”

Despite the ups and downs, Ruff said he was encouraged that the Stars have found a way to win games. The Carolina game was one example when the Stars bounced back after blowing that 5-1 lead to win on a late power-play goal. There have been a few others recently where the Stars have bent a little in the third period, but not cracked. That’s a big step forward.

“There are games we could have lost, and we would have lost them last year, but we’ve done a good job of finding ways to win,” Ruff said. “That’s a sign of a team that can still dig in. That’s the part that has impressed me.”

The Calgary Flames are up next for the Stars, and they are on a roll. The Flames come into Thursday night’s game at American Airlines Center riding a six-game winning streak. Calgary won 2-1 in overtime at Nashville Tuesday.

“They are red hot. Right now, best team in the league,” Ruff said. “There’s a team that really gets their D involved. If we play 60 minutes the way we need to play, it should be a hell of a hockey game. You have to give them a lot of credit; they have turned their season around. They are knocking on the door and won a big game last night in a tough building. We’ve got our hands full.”

Without being asked, Stars coach Lindy Ruff brought up changing his forward lines in Tuesday night’s game against Columbus.

“Last night, I was determined to go back to more of a checking line, and we’ll go from there,” Ruff said. “We’ll try to win the game 1-0 instead of continuing to play the game the way we were. There’s no guarantee that if I had kept it the same, we might have had the same result. I am not taking that chance. I am not going to take that chance halfway through a period.”

Ruff, who shot down the importance of line juggling after Tuesday’s game, was then asked if it could help turn a game around.

“I am not saying the line juggling can help,” Ruff said. “I’m saying sometimes we put too much into the whole line issue, because when I go to write down lines from teams when we play them the second time they are never the same. I wonder why the hell they are doing that.”

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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