The Dallas Stars held a hard-working morning skate on Saturday that focused on the power play and special teams, as well as creating traffic in front of the net heading into a game where the team knows chances will likely be far and few between.
Notable in morning skate was exactly who was on those power play units, as the Stars are shaking things up a bit as John Klingberg continues to grow and now with the addition of Jason Demers on the blue line. The Swedish rookie will be the lone defenseman on the top power play unit tonight instead of Trevor Daley, who then moves to the second unit along with Alex Goligoski and Demers.
While lines were essentially the same as last game, here were the power play units the Stars were practicing with on Saturday:
Roussel - Spezza - Benn
Seguin - Klingberg
Eaves - Eakin - Hemsky
Daley/Goligoski - Demers
"I just think we have options there," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "I think whoever's going real well, I think we're going to give Klingberg a little bit of a look with that top unit but that other unit has options whether we want to go one-timers on one side with two lefties or just go with a one-timer up top with Demers. So there's different options for us."
It seems the plan right now is for Daley and Goligoski to possibly rotate on that second unit, but Jason Demers will almost certainly be stapled on the right side on that unit with Klingberg on the top unit. It's going to be a big test for the young defenseman, who is getting more and more responsibility and pressure placed on his shoulders and just keeps taking it on with a smile on his face.
When it comes to Demers, the new Stars defenseman will be on the second pairing with Trevor Daley. It will be a combination of players that like to handle the puck and can skate, but Demers comes with a bit better game in the defensive zone than most might realize.
"I like his game," said Ruff. "I like his puck moving ability, his defensive game. I think he reads the game well. I think some people would think he's more of on the offensive side. I consider him a good defender watching him play."
Most importantly, the Stars have now found a bit better balance between the left and ride side, something that Lindy Ruff and Jim Nill have obviously been focused on.
"It's something we've talked about ever since I've got here," said Stars GM Jim Nill. "It goes back to my Detroit days. I think every team's trying to get to that point. It's just it's hard to get to. But it's something that we've focused on. It is an important part of the game. I think you look at all the successful teams, a lefty/righty situation is very important. So it's something we knew we had to get to. It's just a process to get there."
Demers only arrived in Dallas late last night and has only had just a few hours to get to know his new teammates, and says he's just going to go into tonight focused on playing his game and trying to be efficient on the ice. There's likely to be some rough moments as he gets used to the communication and flow of the game in Dallas, but it's clear that the team believes he instantly brings another dynamic to the defense that can really help improve the overall play of the team moving forward.
"Well," said Ruff, when asked about the balance on the defense with Demers, "I think you look at it with the amount of pressure there is in the game and teams pushing to the outside with lefties and righties together, whether it's through the neutral zone or breaking out of your zone, it gives you that option of making that cross-ice pass on your forehand, trying to get the puck in the middle of the ice first with the puck going up the walls.
"I think most of the best pairs in this league are lefty/righties. I thought LA had two of the best when they had Voynov and Doughty both on the right side and even in the offensive zone, the pucks that come up the wall, those 50-50 pucks you're on your forehand versus trying to handle it on your backhand. For me, it's a plus. It's better than having the lefties because there isn't enough time in today's game and it's a look that I think is going to help us."