Hockey Costs

Lively scrum is ‘important step’ for Stars ahead of pre-season

CEDAR PARK, Texas — The NHL preseason has become a hectic race of exhibition games with lots of body and pretty intense work in a very short time.

So it was the Stars who spent three quick days at the HEB Center preparing nearly 60 players for the upcoming season. There’s still a lot of work to do, but preseason games start Monday at the American Airlines Center, so they need to move on.

“I think it was a big step today to get into something that feels like a game,” said new Stars coach Pete DeBoer. “But there’s nothing quite like playing against another team where the bodies are flying and the beatings are real, so I think we’re looking forward to taking the next step.”

DeBoer brings a more aggressive style than the players were used to, and the three days have been important in getting the language and the habits in order. It’s a process that will take weeks and months to become truly natural, but it was important to start on the right foot.

“It’s been great,” said the veteran defender ryan suter. “The coaching staff have been great. Very informative in telling us what they want, what they expect. As a player, that’s what you want.”

While the Stars have changed a few faces – saying goodbye to Alexander Radulov, Michael Raffl, John Klingberg and Vladislav Namestnikov – the core of the team remains much the same. The best strikers are still there Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelsky, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Radek Faksa. Leading scorer Jason Robertson hasn’t been signed, but that could be at some point before the regular season opener. That means Saturday’s scrimmage and all three exhibition games in four days will be important in assessing who is playing where.

“It’s a little early to read too much,” DeBoer said. “Until we get into our group, which will probably be in the next seven to ten days, that’s when we’ll see that.”

If you were looking for treats, there were a few.

  • free striker march of the masons was visibly physical and also quite fast. He played on a line with Hintz and didn’t look out of place. He could be a candidate to take the first six minutes and the power play time.

  • new defender Nils Lundkvist, who was acquired in a trade from Rangers on Monday, looked like a player who could contribute immediately. He will probably fight with Thomas Harley and Colin Miller for time in defence.

  • Potential recruits like Matej Blumel, Wyatt Johnston and Logan Stankoven each was involved in several games of skill. Blomel scored twice in a 3-1 victory for the white team.

  • Veteran Guardian Anton Khudobin was solid playing scrum half, as he recovers from surgery and fights for a roster spot and could be a potential trade to another NHL team.

All of that said, the coaching staff were more interested in assimilating the whole group and advancing in all aspects of the game. It’s a challenge to adapt players to a more aggressive and faster, and also trying to tie them together as a team.

“I was looking more at the things that we were trying to implement, and I think we got some of that,” DeBoer said when asked about chemistry and individual performances. “I think our Ds were involved in the breakouts, there was really good puck movement support there.”

So for the first few days things seem to be in order. But there is still much to accomplish.

“For the end of camp, considering they’re all teammates, I think the guys all played hard,” DeBoer said. “You could see guys trying to make an impression and to separate themselves, so it was a lot of good things the last three days.”

Pre-Season: Stars vs. Blues

Monday, 7 p.m. CT

Where: American Airlines Center

TV/Radio: None

Diffusion: DallasStars.com

This story has not been submitted for endorsement by the National Hockey League or the Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a senior writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.