Monday, May 5, 2014

Media Day Notes: Line Matching, Goalie Rotations and More

Doug Lidster (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
With the second round quickly approaching, the Austin media headed out to the Cedar Park Center to talk to the team after practice on Monday. Here are a few notes on the coming series. A larger preview will accompany the Game 1 game day preview.

First of all, Monday's forward lines in practice:
McKenzie-Morin-Ranford
Hedden-Dowling-Henderson
Jeffrey-Mueller-Glennie
Petersen-Faksa-Stransky
Line matching vs. rolling four lines
A lot has been made this year about Texas's ability to roll four lines against anyone. The Stars intend to continue their strategy of rolling all four lines, as opposed to looking for specific matchups in this series. It's worked for them all year.

Coach Doug Lidster expanded, "If you do a lot of line matching, it tends to slow the game down. It also tends to send a message to the players that they can't play against [certain] guys. We want to dictate the play. Let's have the attitude of let's be the hunter and not the hunted."

On the other side, Grand Rapids got players back from Detroit and they received a more significant chunk of the ice time in their series against Abbotsford after returning.

"They added their guys from Detroit, Sheahan and Jurco, and their ice distribution was less, which can be expected. Their fourth line didn't play as much after that, but they're still a deep solid club. They tend to match a little more than we do but they don't have a hard line match. I think you can look to those guys to log a lot of ice."

Texas will get last change in four of the seven games in the series, which bodes well for any line matching chess matches that Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill might try.

Goalie rotation
Speaking of rolling things, Coach Desjardins indicated his desire to continue with the goalie rotation. If everything follows, Jack Campbell will start Game 1 at home on Thursday. He will also get two of three in his home state of Michigan and the potential Game 7.

Desjardins said, "It's always up in the air. It's certainly worked well for us, and we're happy with the way both guys are playing. We'll have to evaluate it."

He added that he hadn't thought beyond Game 1 as far as the rotation goes.

The importance of the black ace role
Alex Guptill
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Texas added yet another black ace in Dallas-drafted Swedish defenseman Ludwig Byström (LUD-vig BEE-strum). The list of scratched players gets even longer when you look at the addition of Chris Mueller, Dustin Jeffrey and Patrik Nemeth. The Stars currently have 18 forwards, 10 defensemen and 3 forwards on the roster for a total of 31 players.

Coach Lidster had some very interesting things to say about the role of those healthy scratches and black aces, having played that role himself quite a bit toward the end of his NHL career.
"Those players that have been in and out of the lineup all year have been terrific for us. It's a tough situation. Everyone wants to play. We keep talking about how everyone is important and they are. It's not easy. It's probably one of the hardest jobs in hockey. I dont think people realize how hard it is to go in when everyone else is in the moment (already). You have to jump on a travelling train.

"The extra guys have a lot more say on what happens on the ice that people realize. They can tend to bring things down if they chose. It's their attitude and commitment. If they're working hard and the other guys are looking at them going, 'Jeez, I'm tired and beat up, but I'd rather be here on the ice,' they respect that."
The week of rest and its effects
By the time the puck drops, Texas will have had seven complete days without a game. Grand Rapids will have been off for five.

"They've had time off, too," Coach Desjardins reminded the scrum. "I don't see it being an advantage or disadvantage for either team."

Chris Mueller pointed to Coach Desjardins' style of practice as a distinct advantage in this sort of situation.

"Sometimes when you're off for a while you just go through the motions. Willie likes to push us. When we're on the ice, we go hard. That's his mentality. I think you see that in the second and third period when we start pulling away from teams, and they can't keep up with our speed and conditioning."

The character of the Griffins
Derek Meech played over 300 games for Grand Rapids after being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings. He still holds second place in their record book for defenseman scoring.

Meech pointed to the Griffins as an organization that sets a standard in the AHL.

"They've worked hard over the years to build a reputation of a team that you try to mark yourself toward and play up to their standard when you play against them. They are a team with a lot of playoff experience. There's a lot of benefits that go along with that. That's what we're trying to do here: establish ourselves as a team to beat throughout the league. It's going to be a heck of a series."

The Jim Nill connection
Finally, when asked if there was any extra pressure to win this series from Dallas GM Jim Nill, who was previously assistant GM in Detroit, Coach Desjardins laughed and replied, "Jim wants us to win every series! He knows both teams really well. He never says anything, but I know he would love for us to win."

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