Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff didn’t mince words when asked what he took away from his club’s 5-1 loss at Minnesota on Saturday night. The Stars had won 4-1 at Winnipeg on Friday night to kick off their three-game road trip on a high note.
However, almost from the moment Dallas hit the ice at the Xcel Energy Center for game two of the roadie, there wasn’t much in the way of positives for Ruff’s team.
“There wasn’t a lot of good when you’re looking at the film. So, once I was done with that, really there was no use going over that with the team,” Ruff said after morning skate on Monday in Denver. “We just felt that we got really careless with the puck at times and that really hurt us. We just started playing a little bit of pond hockey, which got away from us. We didn’t create a lot and ended up giving up too much.”
Saturday’s loss marked the first start in goal for Stars backup goaltender Dan Ellis, who came on in the win over the Jets after No. 1 netminder Kari Lehtonen suffered a lower-body injury and had the leave the game early.
Since Lehtonen was placed on injured reserve on Monday and Jack Campbell was recalled from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis over the weekend, meaning Ellis will again get the nod on Tuesday night when Dallas ends its road trip by facing the unbeaten Colorado Avalanche, who at 5-0-0, are off to their best start since moving to the Mile High City from Quebec in 1995, when their head coach was future Stars’ bench man Marc Crawford.
“Dan [Ellis] had a good preseason. It’s a game he wants back. It’s a bounce-back game for everybody, including Dan. You just want to see the response to it,” Ruff said of Tuesday’s game at the Pepsi Center. “We weren’t tight as a group [in Saturday’s loss]. We didn’t play as that tight five-man unit and that gave Minnesota some opportunities.”
Ellis also figures to be in net for Dallas on Thursday when they return home to host the San Jose Sharks before heading out to the West Coast for games at the Ducks and Kings over the weekend. However, Lehtonen could be on track to return to the pipes in time for that quick, two-game road swing.
“I think we’re looking at a short period of time, which is good. Hopefully by the end of the week he should be available to us,” Ruff said of his No. 1 goaltender.
Like the Stars, the Avalanche will also not have played since Saturday, when Colorado handed Washington a 5-1 defeat with the Avs getting a pair of goals from Alex Tanguay and Semyon Varlamov getting a shutout.
Ruff knows that Tanguay is one of several offensive players, a group including Colorado’s current leading scorer Nate Mackinnon (1-5-6) and P.A. Parenteau (3-2-5) that the Stars will have to keep an eye on come Tuesday. The Avs are off to their unbeaten start and sit atop the Central Division of the Western Conference despite a somewhat slow start from new captain Gabriel Landeskog (0-2-2).
“Yeah, they’ve really played well. They’ve got great speed up front, a really talented group of forwards. And I think they’ve been able to back teams up and they’ve been able to back some good teams up. So we do have a good challenge ahead of us,” Ruff said. “We played them pretty hard in the preseason and I think we can feel good about that part but knowing that they’re even playing better now.”
And as if Dallas didn’t have enough to worry about, the Stars will also more than likely be facing Varlamov, who has been nearly perfect so far this season with a 4-0-0 record, a goals-against-average of 1.00 and a save percentage of .970.
Ruff experimented a bit with his defensive pairings in the waning moments of Saturday’s loss in the Twin Cities. However, on Monday morning he admitted it’s a bit early in the year to start talking about making drastic changes to either his lines or defensive pairings, so the veteran head coach is staying the course for now.
“I think I want to just show some patience. It’s easy to try to blow it up after one or two games. But we’re sitting there at 2-2 and to a man, everybody knows they didn’t play well [at Minnesota],” Ruff said. “I think to a man, everybody wants a second opportunity to make amends for what happened.”