A large mass of hockey media descended upon the American Airlines Center on Saturday as the Montreal Canadiens are in town, as the Dallas Stars took in a rather lengthy and involved morning skate. Normally teams have a "walk-through" of sorts on gamedays, but after skipping practice on Friday the Stars had what would be considered something very close to a full practice.
The Stars worked on drills the involved getting pucks to the net through the center of the ice, as well as six and seven-foot passes they need to effectively move out of the defensive and through the neutral zone. Lindy Ruff also wanted his team to focus on the "little things", as well the puck battles that have been such an issue in the last few weeks.
"For me, it comes down to compete level," said Ruff on what his team needs to improve on. "We haven't won enough 1-on-1s and our compete has to be better."
The Canadiens lost on Friday night and had to travel ahead of an early start tonight, and the Stars are once again wanting to work the puck deep and keep on the Habs on their toes -- a tough task against a very good skating team that has done well in these situations.
"Again, win our battles, frustrate them," said Ruff. "Sometimes it's tough coming off a back-to-back. If we can make sure we get the puck in deep when it needs to go in deep and get above it and make them come through us, it'll be real hard on them. That's our goal."
Travis Moen will be playing in his first game against the Habs since last month's trade and reiterated what everyone involved with the team has been saying this week: it's not about the system and the players need to start winning the battles they need to win in order to make the system work.
"I think it's more just sticking to our systems," said Moen. "The systems are in place to create success. It's about winning those 1-on-1 battles, trying to clog up that neutral zone and not losing that 1-on-1 man coverage. Obviously, getting in shot lanes is important too, but a big thing in keeping the puck out of your net too is playing a lot of time in their zone and having a responsibility for your man."
What about the lines? Oh, those line combinations.
Here is what was skated throughout practice:
Benn - Seguin - Sceviour
Cole - Spezza - Hemsky
Roussel - Eakin - Garbutt
Horcoff - Fiddler - Moen
Daley - Goligoski
Benn - Demers
Oleksiak - Klingberg
Nothing needs to be said about these defensive pairs. In fact, the less said the better.
Curtis McKenzie spent the majority of practice off to the side, indicating that he wouldn be a healthy scratch on Saturday night. It was a confusing decision, as the young winger brings everything that is missing from the Stars right now, and could be that boost of energy and fight the Stars are desperately needing.
Yet after practice, Hemsky and Jokipakka were skated hard -- more than usual -- by coaches, indicated that Hemsky would be a healthy scratch. The vibe around how the team feels about his effort lately isn't exactly great, but there was no verification on the actual scratches coming from the Stars.
"Ales is available to play tonight," said Lindy Ruff.
And....that is that.