The story of the Dallas Stars' night at American Airlines Center for much of the media present was going to start as John Klingberg's first and only game of the preseason, as Frolunda screams for his return to the SEL or whatever it's called these days.
Then Valeri Nichushkin figured he'd go ahead and score twice, accumulating nine shots on goal and ten attempts total. He was close to a third on several occasions in the third period and in overtime, though he failed in the shootout as both Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin did.
It was the sign that fans were looking for, however. He scored in the KHL. He scored in Traverse City. He scored in Fort Worth. He scored here tonight against near NHL-level competition in an NHL building (albeit with just 7,000~ sets of eye balls looking on...).
The excitement when he had the puck was palpable, I thought. People were looking for him. The opinions have already been formed. So the questions moving forward are "Can he keep it up?", and "What does his coach think?"
"He was able to push through and skate well in the game," Ruff told media after. "He was responsible for creating number of really good opportunities. You look at his all around game, he's trying to pay attention to where he's supposed to be defending. He's got a lot on his plate but it was a good effort from him."
The offensive output from him, and from everyone else, was admirable, but what of surrendering five?
"We had some breakdowns that cost us that we'd like to clean up," Ruff continued. "I think our younger defense probably hurt us a little bit, but I really liked what our forwards did. They did a nice job of creating some good opportunities."
Ruff emphasized keeping things positive right now, encouraging, he said, the team to celebrate good plays together as a group of 20.
But the defense was young.
Goligoski was the senior among them while Robidas, Gonchar and Trevor Daley looked on. The goals against were a mixed bag and hard to pinpoint where causes were concerned. Two were deflected, a couple were lost battles in front, and that's where the experience hurt them.
Ruff said he wants Oleksiak to be more physical. Klinbgerg dazzled at times but fell down on several occasions, leading to scoring chances. He finished -2. Goligoski managed an even rating. So it was a mixed bag. Future outings will yield more meaningful results.
Observations, because this preseason game needs more analysis:
*Seriously, I am typing here but it doesn't mean much. It's early. We'll see what happens in October. That being said...
*Tyler Seguin is fast, but he and Jamie Benn both looked tired at times. Remember this is their fourth day in a row of game-speed action after very game-like scrimmages in Fort Worth. Still, they created often and there appears to be little reason to take Erik Cole away from that line right now. It's working. So far.
*Cody Eakin was good tonight, and Shawn Horcoff had some good wheels. If they're able to compliment each other well it could be a temporary solution until Peverley returns, and Fiddler could nail down the #3 center position. Ruff said he liked Chris Mueller on the fourth line with Gazdic and Ritchie.
*Speaking of Vern Fiddler, it's just preseason but he looked great. He skates like a much younger man, and it's important depth to have, as we know. He created a lot and showed tremendous hustle. Could have easily been a star of the game.
*Jack Campbell's night was adventurous, but the Stars made it that way. He mixes technicality with the occasional acrobatics that make people in the press box smile. He should have stopped his first goal against, and it was unscreened, just surprising. A sharp angle shot from distance. Otherwise, Stars goaltenders were victims of rebounds, defensive breakdowns on scramble and some pretty nice deflections.
*If you are interested in writing a guest recap for Wednesday's game, which I, nor anyone else from DBD can attend, unfortunately, please email me.
*That green is so nice. And the stores were packed.
*Ralph Strangis REALLY likes John Klingberg. And so does Les Jackson. And so does Mark Stepneski. So I'll jump on the bandwagon. He should be back in North America in April to join the Texas Stars for playoffs after his season ends.