A disappointing loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday didn't dim the mood in Dallas Stars land. The team continued its trend of relatively improved play, even with the loss at the American Airlines Center, and is still 7-2-1 in its last 10 games.
With that likely in mind, Stars coach Lindy Ruff opened Wednesday's practice with a lighthearted scrimmage that wasn't your typical game.
According to Tyler Seguin, who kicked off his now-weekly radio show with Bob, Dan and Donovan on The Ticket this afternoon, Ruff came out at practice and told players that not only were they going to be playing with a tennis ball, but they needed to find a stick with the opposite shot that they normally used.
No word on how they managed to find a wrong-handed stick for the giant Jamie Oleksiak, who uses a stick that is more than a foot longer than ones used by some of his teammates.
Vernon Fiddler and Antoine Roussel manned the nets for the scrimmage while the goalies donned player gloves and skated out, and I believe Fiddler is the goalie of record in both goals scored in the video below:
Serves him right, since Seguin said Fiddler was the guy who kept him out of the net in the scrimmage when Seguin wanted to play goal.
One guy you won't see in the video is Jamie Benn, who took a maintenance day according to Ruff. The body contact of the scrimmage apparently came from Kari Lehtonen as he was forechecking Alex Goligoski.
Playing with a tennis ball definitely lightens up the mood, but it works on several more subtle parts of the game, from accurate passing (because tennis balls tend to sail, so bad passes look worse than they would with a puck) to making sure you actually have control of the ball before making a play with it. Of course, flipping sticks pushes things a little more into the "just for fun" realm at the NHL level, but it's a surprisingly effective scrimmage technique for clinics at a teaching level.
It wasn't all fun and games at practice, though it certainly provided an interesting social media contrast with the tempter tantrum Wild coach Mike Yeo was throwing in Minnesota at the same time. The Stars did have a big game to get ready for tomorrow against the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators.
Shawn Horcoff has proven himself ready to re-enter the lineup after a brief illness, though there's no word who might come out of the lineup to make room. Obvious candidates on the fourth line include Travis Moen and Colton Sceviour, who slid down during the game against the Blue Jackets as Brett Ritchie moved onto the top line.
It's also the official start to the annual dad's trip, which worked wonders for the team last year just before the Olympic break. Lindy Ruff talked about the tradition after practice: