The second to last game in most NFL preseason schedules is largely accepted to be as close to a "dress rehearsal"as anyone is going to find. The Dallas Stars' preseason schedule may follow the same model as Lindy Ruff is expected to ice a very veteran lineup against the Colorado Avalanche.
"Is it a dress rehearsal?" mused Ruff Wednesday. "It's a chance to look one more time at a couple of options that we haven't tried."
The options will strictly include players understood by the general populace to be NHL caliber players, and nothing else.
Dallas was ambushed Tuesday night when the Avalanche out-shot them 10-1 in the first period, then were dominated for stretches of the second and third (outside of the Stars' five-minute goal scoring frenzy that saw them take a 4-0 lead in the middle frame), recording the victory anyway. One would guess that they'll look for a more consistent performance in front of the home crowd Thursday.
In Frisco Wednesday morning the Stars held practice in groups, and the first looked like this, via Mark Stepneski:
Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alex Chiasson, Ray Whitney, Cody Eakin, Valeri Nichushkin, Antoine Roussel, Vernon Fiddler, Erik Cole, Lane MacDermid, Ryan Garbutt, Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley (injured)
Taking that a step further, as the most complete NHL look we've seen thus far, we'll throw caution to the wind and speculate on lines:
Peverley is skating but is not allowed contact. It's been said he could miss just the Stars' opener against Florida, then return against Washington, but that remains to be seen.
Much of that lineup is easy to draw up. Where it gets tricky is Chiasson and Nichushkin and how that will play out, and the assignments of Eakin and Horcoff, which could still swap. We'll report on what Ruff draws up for this evening after morning skate at 10am, so stay tuned.
Kari Lehtonen is expected to start and complete this game again, while Dan Ellis will likely see the second half of a back-to-back tomorrow in Edmonton, as he likely to do throughout the season.
On the Avs side, they've already reduced their roster to about 28 players, assuring that their lineup will have a strong NHL flavor.
Center Brad Malone is expected to get continued evaluation after scoring his second of the preseason the other night, and first round pick Nathan MacKinnon should re-enter the fray after a few games off due to a hip injury.
The Avs are geting close to naming their defensive pairings for opening night.
Head coach Patrick Roy has said that he will keep 13 forwards and eight defensemen on the regular roster when their season starts Wednesday, as Dallas is also expected to do.
These are the pairings he's named:
Andre Benoit-Erik Johnson
Ryan Wilson-Tyson Barrie
Jan Hejda-Corey Sarich
Here is the forward lineup used by Colorado on Tuesday:
played the entire game Tuesday night (OK it was about half of the game) Tuesday night, meaning that Semyon Varlamov could be in line to get a full-sized test of his own at the AAC tonight.