If there's one thing we've learned about Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff over the course of the playoffs thus far, it's that he appears to quite enjoy little mind games with the media.
That was on display again at the Stars morning skate before Game Three, where Ruff was once again loathe to give any actual information on what lines the Stars might go with at the American Airlines Center.
Lindy Ruff said optional practice this morning and everyone showed up, so lines meant nothing. Cole skated extra, so se'll see what means.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) April 21, 2014
So you're saying the rules are made up and the points don't matter, eh?
In terms of verifiable injury news, the Stars will once again be without the services of defenseman Brenden Dillon, who skated before morning skate at the AAC and could join his teammates for Tuesday's practice but is not yet ready to return from the lower-body injury that has now cost him four consecutive games.
Given the results of the first two games, it's almost certain that Kevin Connauton will be the defensive replacement for Dillon. Connauton provided a relatively solid puck-moving presence in Game Two, despite a few defensive miscues that left his coach saying he was occasionally caught on the wrong side of the play.
In the department of total shocks, Kari Lehtonen is the starter for Dallas.
The Ducks roster could also be the same as Game Two, but Anaheim has made some roster changes in the past few days. They sent rookie goalie John Gibson and defenseman Sami Vatanen down to the AHL to create space for forward Emerson Etem and former Stars defenseman Mark Fistric on the NHL roster. Fistric had been on a conditioning assignment in the AHL.
Ducks forward Matt Beleskey, who did not play in Game Two, did not practice Sunday and is highly doubtful for tonight - Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said it would be "a miracle" if he were able to play.
So now the countdown is really on until 8:30 p.m. tonight (thanks, television schedule makers), when the AAC hosts playoff hockey for the first time in nearly 2,200 days.
The outside is decked out in playoff banners for both the Stars and Mavericks, and long-time Stars fans will find something familiar waiting for them on their seats.
As morning skate wraps up, check out what's being set up at AAC for every fan tonight! https://t.co/EuNOjPTlsU— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) April 21, 2014