It feels like today's Dallas Stars practice in Phoenix has been the most anticipated practice of the season. Both Brad Richards and Nicklas Grossman were expected to participate in a full practice for the first time since each were injured, with the chance that both would be able to join the Stars tomorrow night in Anaheim. That would mean that, for the first time in over a month, the Stars would take the ice as not only a fully-healthy hockey team but an improved hockey team with the addition of Goligoski and Jamie Benn having activated beast mode the past two weeks.
Unfortunately, it seems we're going to have to wait until tomorrow to find out if they'll be able to play. According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, both Richards and Grossman experienced some "mixed results" during their first full practice with the team.
Richards commented that it was much different that just going out on the ice to skate on his own, and struggled a bit adjusting to the speed of the game and having other players playing at full speed around him.
When asked what the difference was, Richards said: ``My legs felt good, but it was just seeing people and dodging people, that's a different test. They told me it would be. I talked with (assistant coach) Stu (Barnes) and he said that sometimes the first time you skate just the motion of people going across your face would seem a little off, and I had that. It will be interesting to see how I feel after the plane ride and a night of sleep. We'll process that and see in the morning.''
That is one aspect of Richards' injury we haven't exactly taken into account: Stu Barnes is a coach for the Stars, and his career was ended -- perhaps a bit prematurely -- by a concussion suffered during the 2008 playoffs. Barnes is likely helping Richards through this process and letting him know what to expect, but it's a bit frustrating to hear that things didn't exactly go as smoothly as Richards might have hoped.
While Richards says they'll wait to see how he feels tomorrow, I'd wager that the Stars wait until he feels completely comfortable during a practice before putting him out on the ice. My best bet would be that we won't see Richards play with the Stars until Saturday night at the earliest, although there's always the chance he wakes up tomorrow and feels great and is determined to be capable of playing. We'll see.
Grossman has missed seven games as well, out with a hip injury, and said today that he'll wait to see how the hip responds before making a determination on his playing status for tomorrow.
Marc Crawford made a great point after practice as well, saying that even if Richards and Grossman can't play tomorrow night the Stars have shown to have a more than capable lineup ready to go. Especially if Jamie Benn is playing.