Perhaps you woke up this morning wondering about the Dallas Stars mental state after their drubbing in Game 3 at the hands of the St. Louis Blues. Perhaps you were worried they would be wound too tight and play with the type of hesitancy that they can't afford given their high-event style of hockey.
Well about that...
I wasn't prepared for the Shania Twain sing-a-long happening when the Stars room opened, led by Jason Spezza. "You're still the onnnne..."— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) May 5, 2016
No interviews until the end of the Shania Twain song, after it was turned up to ear-splitting levels. No, I don't think the Stars are tense.— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) May 5, 2016
That sounds like the team that their fans both loved and were driven bonkers by on the way to a Western Conference title this season.
So yes, the Stars are approaching this fairly critical Game 4 with the same "hockey is fun" attitude that brought them this far. That's exactly how they should be taking everything, especially considering that one team (or at least one goon on that team) is trying to get into their heads via a war of words. As the Stars well know from having Antoine Roussel on their team, nothing good comes from engaging an enforcer/agitator type when his entire goal is distraction.
That means the Stars went about their business as usual at the Game 4 morning skate with a few notable tweaks to the forward lines. Here's what Mike Heika saw at the Scottrade Center for the first set of line rushes:
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour - Vernon Fiddler - Brett Ritchie
It should be noted, though, that Travis Moen left the ice at the same time as Ritchie and Nichushkin, which could indicate the Stars will skate 13 forwards in warm ups before making a decision. Sean Shapiro, who covers the Texas Stars, has reported that Ritchie is still trying to get back to NHL game speed after problems with a lower-body injury, so that may be the root cause. Given it's the playoffs, Lindy Ruff isn't going to tip his hand.
There don't appear to be any changes on the defense either, with Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak skating late along with Curtis McKenzie, Jack Campbell and Antti Niemi.
That, of course, means, Kari Lehtonen was the first goalie off the ice and can be assumed to be the starter tonight. Again, Ruff likely has no interest in confirming or denying that, so it's the best we're going to get.
In terms of other reinforcements, the Stars called up a slew of black aces from the Texas Stars as well to help fill out practices. Additions include Jason Dickinson, Julius Honka, Brendan Ranford and Justin Dowling, who are all free now that their AHL season is over.
The main news out of the morning skate though, at least from the Dallas side, was the music choices. While this was some of the national media's first exposure to the Stars love of Shania Twain, Stars fans (and Washington Capitals fans) found this out earlier in the season as Dallas prepared to the tune of "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under" and "Any Man of Mine."
It worked for the Stars then, and it's taken them this far. There's no telling what a little Shania might do for them tonight.