It's coming, everyone. Start marinating that Thursday night steak now.
The Stars practiced on Monday, and Mark Stepneski had a few notes that caught my eye. First, the new boards and glass. Not only has the glass been modified such that it deadens the puck more, but the boards have been given more flex as well in hopes of absorbing the impact from a player with minimal injuries resulting.
The modifications to the boards have also had another effect:
"The boards are as lively as any rink I have ever played in," said forward Shawn Horcoff. "It’s going to take a little time to adjust, which is why we are down here this week. The glass is a little dead, which is nice. It’s going to be interesting. It’s going to change some things – dump ins, rims, chip outs on the boards. It’s going to take a little bit of getting used to." [Stars]
I'm always a conspiracy theorist when it comes to rink designs. Remember how the old Boston Garden was actually more confined than other rinks back in the '70s? Or how Detroit's boards were always infused with dark magic that propelled pucks back in front of the net after a "harmless" dump it? Well, here is a little tweak to the Stars' barn, and it will be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses. If I may be so bold, I would imagine that the new configuration will both help and harm the Stars during games this year at various points, just like it will do to every other team. (They switch ends, you know.) But if the boards can actually reduce some of the bumps and bruises over the course of a season, that's probably something to be happy about. And hey, if Patrik Nemeth discovers some super-secret bank-shot tactic that leads to his hitting 40 points, that would be nice.
The other thing that was mentioned in Stepneski's piece was what the Stars did while Nichushkin and Erik Cole sat out for portions of practice yesterday. Apparently Nichushkin and "four or five other guys" are feeling a little sub-par, and Cole was late for practice, so he skated afterwards. Top six winger tryouts ensued:
"Eaves is a veteran guy who can play a little bit there," Ruff said. "Colton Sceviour has gained some ground and played very well at times for us. He’s got that gift around the net that you would like to take that look. It’s going to be different personnel in that slot. You’re not going to see the same guy there the whole year. Val is going to get his time there. Sceviour will get some time. If somebody gets hot, they’ll stay for good periods of time." [Stars]
Sceviour has often been the odd man out during line combination fantasizing this summer, but he's proven a fair amount of NHL aptitude in his limited time with the Stars thus far. If given the chance, one would suspect that he might be able to steal some serious 2nd-line ice time for good chunks of the season.
Patrick Eaves could certainly do a moderately passable impression of Megatron Ten-Goals Eric Nystrom if it comes down to it, but I would not expect him to wind up in either of those spots for any significant stretch this year: the curse of versatility.
* * * * *
Tuesday Links, get your Tuesday Links here! *throws links at unsuspecting reader, laughs* Hey, come on. At least I didn't write a mean-but-hilarious post about the Stars back in 2013 like The Royal Half did.
Ho hum, another Tuesday, another writer saying the Stars will have the best power play in the league. Wait, this might be the first one. I think Lambert has a Star crush, everyone. [Puck Daddy]
Josh Bogorad on what the Stars have done, and what they will need to do this year. His On the Radar pieces are always a good read. [Stars]
Mike Heika also chimes in on the Monday practice, emphasizing that the tardy Erik Cole was skated "hard" after practice. Make of that what you will. [DMN]
Alex Ovechkin went on a really cool date. I am starting to love this guy a lot more than I already did. [THN]
The Boston Globe espouses the real effects of unbalanced handedness, particularly within a team's defense pairings. Good stuff for us to keep in mind here until Honka and Klingberg even everything up next year like we ALL KNOW THEY WILL LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOUR OBJECTIONS [Boston Globe]
Ryan Johansen has been signed by Columbus, finally. Kekalainen gave him $12 million over three years, although the deal is backloaded as much as possible, perhaps out of spite, perhaps out of a desire to see whether the NHL notices when Columbus actually winds up paying Johansen only $2.999998 million this year and $6.000002 million next year. They will keep pushing until someone notices, mark my words. [Columbus Dispatch]
Here's a cool read that Huw told me to post yesterday, except I failed to do so. Three cheers for Huw, three jeers for me. Okay, stop it, I don't like that. This is legitimately good stuff, though: How Corsi really got named, courtesy of the inimitable Bob McKenzie. [TSN]
I'm a sucker for articles like this: NHL rules about the goalie's stick. No throwing your stick to him, people! Clean handoff,Olympic-style. [The Hockey Writers]
Finally, here's the brand spankin' new camera angle in the AAC that Razor put out there today: