How can the Stars compete in the Western Conference? Marc Crawford said on Thursday that "most teams in the league play very similar systems, but your success in the league comes from execution. ...We know we have to be at the high end of that paradigm." Meaning that the Stars might not be at the top of the heap talent-wise, but if they execute the system better than the other team he thinks they'll have a shot. It's about scheme.
It was a good hard practice, with new assistant Willie Desjardins running much of it. "We got a lot of good detail work in there," Crawford said. When asked what kind of details, he elaborated: "Recovery, how we recover in the defensive zone, the lanes that you recover too. It's a subtle thing, and important thing." He also mentioned the forecheck as an area of focus, specifically the kind of forecheck employed (patterns, as he put it.) and how many "different forechecks" they would use. Evidently several.
He said the first three pre-season games are "for [player] evaluation." Cuts will be made as players return to Cedar Park, etc, and then the final three games will be more about adjustments the staff deems necessary heading into the season opener.
I asked about Severin Blindenbacher practicing with the NHL group and he said they needed a body to round out the pairs and the correct right-shot/left-shot pairings, but did say they liked his performance thus far. Philip Larsen is also a right shot, so, that should tell you all you need to know.
Game roster for Friday:
James Neal-Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson
Fabian Brunnstrom-Jamie Benn-Steve Ott
Jonathan Cheechoo-Aaron Gagnon-Brandon Segal
Luke Gazdic-Ondrej Roman-Colton Sceviour
Karlis Skrastins-Severin Blindenbacher
Nicklas Grossman-Stephane Robidas
Jeff Woywitka-Maxime Fortunus
Crow said they want to see Cheechoo in some other kinds of roles. He will not play with Ribeiro and Morrow on Saturday, and did not practice on their line today. Adam Burish will take the right wing there next game, but don't read too much into it. They've said previously that Wandell-Burish is a pair they like, so once Wandell returns we'll probably see that a bit. Wandell skated for 45 minutes or so today.