Stars vs. Blues Line Combos & Game Notes: Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky to make Preseason Debut
Exciting young defenseman Julius Honka will also be on the ice tonight in the first live hockey game of the year.
Note: Tonight's game will be streamed live on DallasStars.com with Josh Bogorad, Bruce LeVine and Owen Newkirk providing play by play and color commentary. Unfortunately, the stream is only limited to those in Texas.
The Dallas Stars first preseason game of the year is on Monday night at home against the St. Louis Blues, and the team had a morning skate for those playing followed by a practice session for those that will be held out. The team will have four games over the next six days, a rather hectic schedule that will allow for evaluations and the dialing in of the team moving into the regular season.
Lines for tonight looked like this, although they may change prior to the game:
Coach Lindy Ruff said that Kari Lehtonen and Anders Lindback will split time in goal tonight.
It will be the first official debut of Spezza and Hemsky in Stars jerseys and Ruff said that the team is likely to give them an extended look in the preseason together. The Stars have kept the duo paired up with rotating wingers (Roussel has played there the most) during camp and while Ruff mentioned they'll try other combinations, it seems they like the idea of having two duos with great chemistry on two different lines.
Most importantly, the Stars will have a chance this preseason to give some younger players rather significant ice time compared to last season.
"Obviously, some of the work that the Texas Stars did -- some of our young guys -- I think those players that are out there are deserving of the time," said Ruff. "I think last year it was more important to get some of the older players time, we had a new system we were putting in place; now that system is in place and we can take a look at some players we might not have last year."
One of those young players is the electric young defenseman that was the buzz of camp, Julius Honka. Usually coaches are quick to slow down the hype over young players, but Ruff continued to have praise for the Finnish blueliner.
"Just to continue the way he's played," said Ruff, when asked what he expects from Honka tonight. "He's been a pleasant surprise in camp, the way he's handled the physical play. For me, it was surprising for an 18-year old. I'd like to tell you to expect to see great things, but if I can just see more of what he's been doing that will be good enough for me."
Honka is a confident player who has been forthright about his own weaknesses when talking to us over the summer, but it's also clear he's very aware of what he does well. He's calm on and off the ice and seemed unfazed by the idea of appearing in his first NHL game at 18 years old (albeit a preseason game) and said he feels good coming out of camp.
"I think I had a good summer," said Honka. "I gained some weight and I know my strengths and I think I'm able to play with those guys when I play my own game. I just keep going, play smart and enjoy it."
Another player making his NHL debut tonight is center Jason Dickinson, who once again reiterated how eye-opening it has been for him to see the speed of the Stars and the NHL for the first time. Tonight will be a great test for the young center, who will be headed back to the OHL this season.
"It's a milestone for me," said Dickinson, regarding the game tonight. "It's going to be a whirlwind experience. This whole week has been. I just have to soak it in and take in as much as I can.
"I'm going to try and treat it like any other game. It's going to be in the back of my mind, but that's all you can do, really."
- Valeri Nichushkin skated on Monday and is close to being 100% recovered from his sore groin. No word on when he'll play.
- Sergei Gonchar is day-to-day with a lacerated ear from a Julius Honka shot on Sunday.
- Trevor Daley skated on Sunday and Monday and appears fine after a violent collision with the net on Saturday.
- Shawn Horcoff did not skate on Monday, to get some 'rest.'
Check out the Lindy Ruff scrum below: