I recall a quote somewhere in the annals of hockey history from former Edmonton Oiler and New York Ranger defenseman Kevin Lowe - paraphrasing- "A series doesn't even begin until game two."
Former Dallas Stars coach Ken Hitchcock was known to espouse a similar viewpoint in his time here. After all, the team that took game one either establishes legitimacy in taking the second game as well, or the squad tasked with making the greater of the adjustments steals momentum, and in this case, home ice.
It's in that very position we find the Dallas Stars this 16th of April- With a chance to grab a series by its neck for the first time in eight long years after a dominant win over the Minnesota Wild Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.
For the Stars this year the one constant has been change- in goal, in the forward combinations, in the healthy bodies and the unhealthy ones. Tonight will be no different.
Tyler Seguin may return to action for the first time since suffering an Achilles tendon injury with 10 games remaining in the regular season. May. Might.
"Well, I think that's a conversation him and I will have today, see where he's at after the workout today," Ruff told media Friday. "If he's good, there's a good chance we'll put him in."
Adding Tyler Seguin to any lineup is an attractive proposition- But the Stars have been rolling, for whatever reason, in spite of his absence. That leaves Ruff with a potentially difficult decision, even if it is a good problem to have.
"There's teams that are pretty banged up that are trying to put people in where we've got ourselves healthy and we have to take somebody out, somebody that's playing well if we choose to put Tyler back in tomorrow," Ruff continued.
Speculation has run the gamut from Sceviour to Eaves to Cody Eakin to Ales Hemsky. Some have wondered if Val Nichushkin, given the skill-set moving into the lineup, might be the most logical. After an optional practice Friday it's tough to say what they're thinking.
Similarly, the situation in the Dallas net- for the 84th time this season - will have to be clarified after morning skate takes place. Kari Lehtonen has won seven of his last eight starts and was good on the rare ocassion he needed to be Thursday in a shutout, but anything is possible as Ruff and Nill try to keep their pair rolling in tandem.
For a Stars game Thursday's affair was on the low-event end. Dallas wound up with 62 shot attempts on the night to Minnesota's 46, and 41 of Dallas' came prior to the Jason Spezza 2-- goal about halfway through the game.
The Wild mixed up their lines significantly in Friday's practice. Granlund could possibly go from center to wing on a line with Koivu as they try to solve the Faksa line, while Erik Haula re-slots with the mates he's been with in Niederreiter and Jason Pominville.
Granlund - Koivu - Jones
Zucker - Coyle - Fontaine
Nino - Haula - Pominville
Carter - Stoll - Porter
Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker and Justin Fontaine got thrown together in a new potential second combination, and collectively have had some struggles to produce.
On paper it doesn't look like much- A third line center returning, but consider Erik Haula's development, and his proclivity to excel against the Stars. He's recorded 21 points in 27 games since Torchetti took over. He's scored on 4 of the 11 shots he's taken against Dallas in his career, with seven points overall.
A third-line center, maybe, but against the Stars he's been a bit more in recent meetings.
Interestingly, or probably not, Devan Dubnyk missed practice altogether Friday with what the Wild are calling a maintenance day. Seemingly their best chance to give themselves a shot, he'll be assumed the starter until we hear differently.
The Stars PR group had the following notes on Thursday night's win-
- Stars captain Jamie Benn registered a game-high and a postseason career-high of three points (1-2=3), marking his first career multi-point playoff game. Benn now has eight points (5-3=8) in seven postseason games.
- Forward Jason Spezza netted two points (1-1=2) in tonight's game against Minnesota. The forward has now recorded 54 points (18-36=54) over 57 Stanley Cup Playoff games in his NHL career.
- Forward Patrick Eaves posted two points (1-1=2) and five shots against the Wild. Eaves has notched 15 postseason points (7-8=15) over 68 playoff games in his NHL career.
- Rookie Radek Faksa made his NHL postseason debut tonight, scoring the game-winning goal (1-0=1) in the second period.
- Goaltender Kari Lehtonen recorded the second postseason shutout of his NHL career with a 4-0 win against Minnesota. Lehtonen stopped all 22 shots he faced.