The Stars have a couple days off before their next game, so let's hope they use it wisely. From all accounts, Dallas ran something akin to a second training camp during their stretch of practices last week, and while the term "reset" might cause some bile to start rising, Lindy Ruff certainly tried to re-strategize in the days leading up the New Jersey's defeat. It's tough to dispute that he had some success with the initial implementation phase Saturday evening.
Part of that revision involved the Stars focusing on team defense, through line construction and ice time as much as anything else. While the coaching staff has tried to preach ("Play this way, everyone") their refrain about defending ever since the first handful of games this season, it appears that Ruff is now trying to simply put a safety valve on each line. Mike Heike phrases it thus:
In fact, if you want to look at the place where the Stars’ identity has fallen apart the most, it might be in the fact that the top two lines are too aggressive, and too assertive. In doing that for nearly two-thirds of the game, the team really has been cheating to the wrong side of the puck too much.
On Saturday, with Spezza on the top line and Eakin, Morin and Fiddler running the other three lines, the team looked more like it did last season when Rich Peverley or Chris Mueller or Dustin Jeffrey or Shawn Horcoff logged those extra center minutes. While Spezza as a second line center works on paper, it might not be the perfect solution on the ice.
Of course, that wasn’t the only change made in the three-day minicamp. Ruff put Hemsky with Eakin and Antoine Roussel, and Hemsky rebounded from two healthy scratches with a hard-skating game backed by two conscientious linemates. In addition, the D-pairs made sense, as both John Klingberg (21:52) and Jyrki Jokipakka (19:55) looked great next to the veterans (again, another move suggested by some fans weeks ago). And moving Jordie Benn into a lesser role (14:10) paid off, as he had eight hits and seemed more comfortable on the ice. [DMN]
The whole observations piece is well-worth your time, of course. Go give it a read, then get back to work.
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Monday Links remind you that there are ten days until December 25th. Please go buy me another American Giant hoodie. Spirit of the season you know.
ESPN's recap of the NJ game reminds me that Tyler Seguin is single-handedly keeping the term "bushel" in popular parlance. [ESPN]
Some cool news: Stars forward prospect Matej Paulovic has been selected for the Slovakian WJC team. [Mlive]
Some not so cool news: Remi Elie was cut from Team Canada's WJC roster Sunday. Jason Dickinson is still with the club. [FantasySP.com]
Is Tyler Seguin the best player in hockey right now? Well, only if you judge by goals and points and stuff. [Fansided]
Second City Hockey is a bit bummed about Jeremy Morin's fulfilled trade request. [SCH]
Shea Weber was cut on the arm by a skate blade, but he wasn't panicking about it. [Pro Hockey Talk]
Guess who has the mumps after being totally sure he didn't have the mumps while talking really closely with lots of media people and everyone? Also, Pierre McGuire certainly has the mumps now, because one Sidney Crosby has been confirmed as mumpy. [Puck Daddy]
Prospective Las Vegas NHL owner William Foley suggests the "Black Knights" for the team that doesn't exist yet. [SportsNet Video]
Finally, check out the raw emotion (and stick-breaking cross check) in this Smith/Panik bout from SportsNet Video. I didn't embed it in case you're reading this on your phone in your vice president's office and the autoplay might get you fired. Unless she's a hockey fan. [SportsNet]