The Dallas Stars will take on the Texas Stars tonight at the Cedar Park Center. While it's being touted as an "exhibition game", Marc Crawford and the Dallas players are treating this as a serious and physical game to be used to improve upon their dreadful performance over the weekend and gear up for Saturday. The team has been going through some 'bonding' and team building exercises, playing some golf and going through spirited and productive practices.
Perhaps this is just what the team needed after an extremely tough schedule last week. Reports have been that the players are upbeat once more and focused on getting ready for the season opener. And it's looking more and more like Jamie Benn will make his NHL debut on the top line with the Dallas Stars.
Jere Lehtinen is skating, but he's yet to practice with the team during training camp. Crawford has said that if Lehtinen is ready then he'll play on Saturday, but you have to think he'd need at least a few actual practices with his teammates before taking the ice during a game.
Here are the lines that have been taking shape over the past few days and have run out on the ice for several practices in a row. [Lines aggregated from information provided by Mike Heika and Mark Stepneski]
On the fourth line, Crawford is still trying to figure out exactly what combination of Barch, Sutherby, Brunnstrom and Wandell they'll use, and I'll imagine that tonight he'll try different mixes on that line to see what works best. Barch has really impressed the coaches with his versatility and willingness to do whatever the team asks of him (he spent some time working as a defenseman during practice the other day), and while the coaching staff hasn't lost all faith in Brunnstrom it's obvious that they're having a tough time figuring out how much playing time he deserves.
Regarding Brunnstrom: I know we're all a bit worried about his potential bust as an NHL player, but he has yet to play 60 games at this level and is entering just his second year in the NHL. I think we can all agree that some time in the AHL playing on the top line down there will do him so good, but apparently the coaching staff wants him to stay in Dallas if at all possible, according to Heika:
In talking to people today about the Brunnstrom story, it appears there is a large amount support for keeping him on the team and possibly in the lineup. Marc Crawford still isn't giving out a lot of clues, but it appears that's how he feels.
Some other notes about the roster:
- Apparently Mark Fistric has yet to solidify his position as the #6 defenseman. He and Jeff Woywitka are in a battle for that spot and both will get time on the ice tonight. As it stands right now, signs are pointing to Fistric being a healthy scratch with Woywitka playing with Niskanen.
- It appears there is some confusion (among the media at least) of who exactly is the top line. On Saturday, Brad Richards' line got the start ahead of Ribeiro (who was playing with Steve Ott and Barch) and right now it's unclear who will be the top line to hit the ice when the season starts on Saturday. Personally, I think a clear-cut "Number One Line" is not exactly needed, and Crawford should just send out the line that best matches up with whoever the opposition has on the ice. Richards and his crew have certainly earned the right to be called the No. 1 line for the Stars this preseason.
- Richard Bachman was assigned to the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) yesterday.
Bud Light Battle Of The Stars Information
The game will be tonight at Cedar Park Center at 7:00 p.m. CDT. If you are in the area, want to go and don't have ticket yet you can go here to purchase them. I'm hearing that the brand new arena is a great ice hockey facility and I'm looking forward to getting the chance myself to head down there someday to check it out.
The Texas Stars will also be presenting an online broadcast of the game via their website, with John Fisher (their director of Media Relations) doing the duties. I'm assuming it'll be a full play by play of the game. You can find the link for the audio stream here.