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Stargazing: Dallas Stars adjusting to up-tempo system

Stargazing is a daily assortment of Dallas Stars news, as well as a look at what's happening around the Pacific division and the rest of the NHL. Stargazing will run every other day or so, now that things are picking up, becoming a daily feature once the preseason begins.

It's hard to believe, but in just 2 days the Stars will be icing a team at the American Airlines Center when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town. Pre-season and training camp in the NHL are strangely one and the same. Players only had their first official practices with the coaching staff yesterday and already we're looking forward to a game, trying to get injury reports, and the team will board a plane for their first road trip this weekend. After a long summer of waiting, the proceedings have quickly taken on a frantic pace, not unlike the new Stars game plan.

It was that up-tempo style that had everyone, fans, media and players alike, talking yesterday after practice, and not surprisingly, that's where we find the focus of Stars related news and notes on this Tuesday. I would be remiss if I did not point out the irony that as the Lightning arrive Wednesday, stories about them feature a focus on shoring up the defense and stories on the Stars focus on opening up the offense. What a juxtaposition.

Brad Richards, it seems, is just happy to have flip flopped with the circumstances...

After the jump, quotes from the coaching staff, Brad Richards, a look at the Heatley reaction, and links from around the Pacific...

Stars News and Notes:


Mike Heika writes in his blog this morning that we may finally see the "real" Brad Richards this year:

I wrote this summer that I had not yet been impressed by Brad Richards. There apparently is a pretty good reason for that. I found out this week that in addition to the wrist and hand injuries that ended up cutting 25 games from his season in 2008-09, Richards was bothered by shoulder problems for much of the year.

If you combine that with the mono he suffered in 2007-08, we never have seen Richards at full strength in a Stars uniform.

And when you combine that with a quote Richards gave yesterday...

"I've been in the league nine years, and most of the time I've played that type of system," veteran center Brad Richards said. "I feel at home. I love it. I feel that's the way the game should be played."

It's safe to say that  after a long off-season, Brad Richards is feeling pretty good not only about himself physically, but about the system in which he plays. Happy, healthy athletes are productive athletes. I don't know if they're $7.8 million productive, but they're pretty productive.


Also in the Morning News, a discussion of how to meld this new tenacious mentality with a desire to remain sound defensively...

First-year coach Marc Crawford said he wants to meld a new aggressive offensive style with a work ethic that has been in place since the Stars moved to Texas in 1993.

"In all of the years that I've coached against the Stars, we always prepared for the intense backside pressure and the intense determination that the Stars always had to keep the puck and to recover the puck," Crawford said. "Yeah, we want the defense to be more active, but we don't want them to be more reckless. So we're going to build on the great defensive qualities they've got."

Insert joke about "backside pressure" here.

The defense certainly was active yesterday at the scrimmage. With the forwards on both teams attacking as hard as they could, and with defensemen joining the rush fluidly as they did, the group of 10 players on the ice resembled a swarm, moving from one end of the rink to the other.


Mark Stepneski writes that Joe Nieuwendyk was pleased with the pace on Sunday, remarking as much in the locker room following the scrimmage. And Marc Crawford seemed satisfied with his clubs start:

"We introduced a couple of the elements of our game plan today, which is our desire to have really good direct plays coming out of our zone and be a direct attacking team or a clean exiting team," said Crawford. "The second thing was to give them an idea of our forecheck. We worked on our forecheck for a couple of drills. I thought I saw some really good reads there. When you get into the scrimmage, you're looking at talent. We put them through a lot in a very short period of time and I thought for the first day it was a pretty good execution scrimmage. I was really pleased with it."


Around the NHL:

For San Jose, the success or failure of the Heatley trade is "in the room," too. On the ice, they add a 50-goal scorer without surrendering Patrick Marleau(notes), and Heatley can turn Joe Thornton(notes) back into a 100-point center. (We assume he'll play on the top line ... don't want Dany thinking his role's being diminished, do we?)

Off the ice, a team that's long struggled to find character in its locker room and fortitude from its players has acquired hockey's most notorious malcontent of the moment. Even those who defend him, like Ray Ferraro, do so from a hockey perspective rather than a character one, which tells you something.

Thinking about Thornton and Heatley makes me nauseous. The thought of him ripping their room apart, though unlikely in the first season he's there, is infinitely more intriguing.

For now, your forward lines will most likely be:





Top heavy, as is any hockey team, but boy do they have a lot of cap money invested in just a handful of players now. Injury problems would be hard to overcome with depth like that. Still...scary.