How do you turn a late start into a strategic advantage? The Dallas Stars are hoping to find out. After a rash of positive COVID-19 tests decimated the practice lineup and pushed back their schedule, the Victory Green Gang is finally about to get play underway.
The season might have started even earlier – but the NHL made the decision that picking up the Stars’ schedule with their January 22 home debut made more sense than beginning on the road against the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 19. That worked just fine for head coach Rick Bowness, reports Stars senior staff writer Mike Heika:
“It’s more beneficial for us to play on the 22nd than the 19th,” Bowness said. “Just the way that camp unfolded where we lost those five days, we need more time to get our legs back. You lose the numbers and you lose some bodies, so we need the time to get the guys who are here back into game shape and we need the time to get more bodies back. It gives us some time to get healthier bodies back in the lineup.”
Bowness said something as simple as hitting more in practice takes time and convincing. The players who are on the ice might not be in peak physical condition because they have been quarantined, and their teammates typically don’t want to hit them as hard in normal circumstances.
Some key players remain absent: Miro Heiskanen, Jamie Oleksiak, Mark Pysyk, Justin Dowling, Taylor Fedun, Julius Honka and Rhett Gardner still haven’t returned to practice. The resulting line blenders are helping some young players get some extra attention:
“We’re giving Thomas [Harley] a chance to work with a veteran [Andrej Sekera],” Bowness said. “Thomas is here to make the hockey club. He’s got to take advantage of the fact that Feds (Taylor Fedun) is out, Pysyk’s out, Miro’s out, (Oleksiak’s) out. He’s going to get a good look. If you want to give him a good look, put him with a veteran and see how it looks....
Likewise, 21-year-old winger Jason Robertson was on a line with veterans Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov Saturday. Joel Kiviranta started training camp on that line, but has been out in recent days, so this gives Kiviranta a chance to gain his legs and Robertson a chance to show what he can do with high-end talent.
There’s more at Mike’s place. [Dallas Stars]
Cage-art aficionados, this is your lucky day. Check out the Stars’ thread on the new lids for Anton Khudobin, Jake Oettinger and Colton Point.
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Here’s your daily dose of Roope Hintz. You’re welcome.
Around The Leagues
In On The #Kill Taker
Or, All Central-on-Central Violence, All The Time....
- The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Jordan Staal-less Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 to kick off the weekend in the Discover® Central™ Division©. [Canes Country]
- Juuse Saros stopped 42 shots as the Nashville Predators beat the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second time this season so far, 5-2. [On The Forecheck]
- And five scorers on five goals, including Iron Man Keith Yandle, helped the Florida Panthers body the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-2. [Litter Box Cats]
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The Winnipeg Jets have resumed practice after a cautious cancellation over the weekend.
Winnipeg cancelled Saturday practice over what team called 'abundance of caution' regarding possible exposure https://t.co/eAMmXamqiv— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) January 18, 2021
What has the pandemic year been like for 2021 NHL Draft prospects? A presumptive top-five talks about dressing in public, adjusting his style, and trying to stay ready for his moment.
This story began as one about what a prospect does during a delayed start to his season. It became one about a 17-year-old travelling halfway across the world to help achieve his dream of playing in the NHL.— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) January 18, 2021
Meet Brandt Clarke, with @scottcwheeler https://t.co/H4Jb69m4tv
Today we celebrate both MLK Day and Willie O’Ree’s anniversary. Enjoy it.