Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
Injuries and the hole created by Jamie Benn are shaping interesting training camp battles and scenarios as Friday's cut deadline nears.
At 27 bodies currently, the Dallas Stars will have to lose four by Friday afternoon to meet the 23 player requirement. Radek Faksa and Brett Ritchie will depart for their respective CHL teams soon [update: Today], and one goaltender (a subject for another post) will depart as well.
That leaves one more that must depart out of Jordie Benn, Antoine Roussel, Jamie Oleksiak, Colton Sceviour, Reilly Smith and Brenden Dillon. Two more if Jamie Benn's new contract is finished any time soon. (Breath holding not advised).
The battles would appear, at this hour, to be:
Colton Sceviour vs Antoine Roussel
Roussel has contributed early in a variety of ways to the Texas Stars' success this year, quickly becoming a fan favorite down there with his mix of agitation, checking and even some offense. Observers of events in Cedar Park were not surprised at his call-up to start the NHL camp, but now Sceviour has been brought up as well, and Roussel's placement in the lineup during the scrimmage did not indicate he was a big part of their plans on the fourth line.
Reilly Smith seems safe for now, given his performance with Texas, as well as in the scrimmage yesterday, but could Sceviour's re-calling indicate a possible change in thinking where the fourth line is concerned?
Eakin, Smith and (Insert player here), Garbutt, Sceviour or Wandell, could provide Glen Gulutzan a young, tenacious line that can possess the puck and create scoring opportunities - But as the season unfolds would the Stars be better served by a more traditional grinding, defensive fourth line of Wandell, Garbutt and Vern Fiddler or Nystrom? If so, Smith could see his role disappear somewhere down the line.
Either way, Jamie Benn's absence is giving these young players spots for which to compete.
Brenden Dillon vs Jordie Benn vs Jamie Oleksiak
Dillon and Benn seemed to have the edge over Oleksiak going into camp, but now the big first-round pick has been recalled - Probably in part to nagging injuries to Aaron Rome and Philip Larsen, neither of which skated today.
Brenden Dillon got the edge to start the scrimmage yesterday, being paired with Larsen, but it was Jordie Benn who got the power play time when Larsen left the game.
With Fistric gone, two of the three will get to stay long term, and the bet there is on Benn and Dillon - But if injuries force Glen Gulutzan's hand, could three rookies start the season on Dallas' blue line? Can Jamie Oleksiak use the opportunity to vault himself over the other two and become an NHL player well ahead of schedule?
Mark Stepneski reports that Aaron Rome and Philip Larsen will return to practice tomorrow, so this might be a moot discussion.
Wednesday At Camp:
Mike Heika reported this morning that the Stars were continuing their work on special teams under the tutelage of new Assistant Coach Curt Fraser, hired from the Detroit Red Wings minor league system in the summer before the lockout.
Power play units used today looked like this:
That's a change from the units used in the scrimmage yesterday. Most notable is Roy's presence on the point, taking Goligoski's spot, who moves to the second unit with Trevor Daley. Philip Larsen did not practice today because of an ailing elbow and that has something to do with it. With those changes Ray Whitney moves to the first unit to help facilitate.
Every bit of it is subject to change when Jamie Benn comes back into the lineup, but they're clearly preparing as though they will not have him to start the season.
Mike Heika pointed out that Goligoski could go back to the first unit when Benn comes back, and Whitney can play a point if need be. He was a part of the Coyotes power play in Phoenix, though it finished nearly as badly as Dallas' did last season.