The Dallas Stars opened Wednesday’s practice with a little fun, scrapping the puck and holding a scrimmage using a tennis ball.
“We’re looking for a warm-up. We do different things for a warm-up. You got to have some fun out there,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We had them all play with the opposite hand, had the goalies out and a couple guys play goal. It’s just kind of back to your roots of playing a little bit of ball hockey as a kid. They enjoy it. We’re playing four games in six nights and just trying to keep it light.”
Forwards Antoine Roussel and Vernon Fiddler handled the goaltending. Goaltenders Kari Lehtonen and Anders Lindback came out of the net and were skaters.
“When players were playing on their opposite hands, I think we were pretty good at that point,” Lehtonen said. “When they started playing normal, I wasn’t any good anymore.”
Ruff had some praise for Roussel’s goaltending, at least one of his saves.
“Antoine had one really good two-pad stack. It was a big save,” Ruff said. “I think he outplayed Fiddler at the other end.”
Roussel seemed pleased to hear Ruff’s comments about his performance in goal and said he’ll continue to work to get better.
“I think I can bring goalie depth,” Roussel said. “I am probably the seventh goalie in the organization right now and I am going to try to make my way up.”
Horcoff ready to go, maintenance day for Jamie Benn
Stars captain Jamie Benn did not practice Wednesday. Coach Lindy Ruff said it was a maintenance day for Benn.
Forward Shawn Horcoff, who has missed the past four games due to illness, practiced Wednesday and is ready to return to the lineup.
“Shawn will be a go,” Ruff said. “He’ll be playing tomorrow night in Nashville.”
Ritchie on top line? It’s an option, said Ruff
With Jamie Benn not practicing Wednesday, Shawn Horcoff skated in Benn’s place on the top line with Tyler Seguin. Also skating on the line was Brett Ritchie, who saw some time there in Tuesday’s game against Columbus.
So, could Ritchie see more time on the top line?
“I think it’s an option,” Ruff said. “I thought Ritchie had a good night. He drew three or four penalties in the game and had two real good opportunities. So it’s an option for us. We’ll see. I don’t want to put too much there. I want to see him keep maintaining a high level of play and if he can, it’s a good option.”
Stars to take dads on road trip
The Stars will have some special guests on their road trip to Nashville and Colorado. Fathers of several of the players will be on the trip.
“It’s awesome. My dad is pumped,” said Stars forward Antoine Roussel. “We are going to Nashville and Denver, they are great cities to visit. It is the first time my dad has been to Nashville and Denver. It’s awesome, and it’s a great opportunity for them. Hopefully, they are going to bring us good luck just like last year.”
Dads joined the team on a California road trip last season and the Stars picked up five of six points, going 2-0-1. Dads going on this year’s trip watched practice in Frisco Wednesday morning.
“My dad is excited to check out Nashville and Colorado,” said Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. “He’ll get to see what we do on a daily basis. He’s excited about it.”
And it will be a chance for the younger Oleksiak to show some thanks to a guy who helped him get to the NHL.
“The whole family sacrificed a lot. I wouldn’t be here without them,” said Oleksiak. “It’s nice to be able to reward my dad for all the early morning practices; it’s a good feeling. Hopefully, he’ll enjoy it and we’ll get some wins.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff has experienced these trips before and sees plenty of benefits.
“I think it means a lot. It’s a chance to give back to probably the person that helped you the most in most cases, put the most miles on their car,” Ruff said. “Most of these fathers should have new cars by now, the kids should be able to buy them one. But to travel and to see what the NHL experience is all about, experience the highs and lows of going on the road, winning a game and losing a game, I think it pushes the players to perform at their max. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for sons to spend special time with dad.”
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.