|(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)|
Mike Hedden continued, "Our coaches have been good with giving us days off. The way we play, we need it. We go hard in practice, and it carries to the ice. We know we have to play the same way."
Uptempo practices have been a staple of the Stars regimen all year. It has helped them wear out teams in second and third periods.
"One of the key things Willie strives for in practice is tempo. If you're not moving your feet, even for two seconds, you're going to hear about it because he yells at you. But it helps because that carries over to the game. Our transition relies on our fast pace, and it all comes from our practices."
Those practices helped generate quite a few quick transition plays in the series against Grand Rapids, including two breakaways in Game 1.
"We've always been a team that's based on transition and speed and we're not going to change that. That's what we want to be known as," said Coach Lidster.
Looking ahead to the way that will matchup against the Marlies, Lidster continued, "They play a strong 1-3-1, and they don't get caught often. We have to find a way to generate speed through the neutral zone. We don't want to get into a thing where we are trading chances, but we want to play a high tempo game."
|Travis Morin is one of two remaining original Texas Stars.|
(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
With the advancement to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in franchise history, the comparisons to the inaugural year were inevitable. Captain Maxime Fortunus and Travis Morin are the only remaining players from that season.
"Every team is different," said Fortunus. "Sometimes you try to compare. You have different players and a different feel. It's all up here in the mind. It's how you get ready mentally for those games. Little details. We're trying to focus on those."
Asked what this team needs to do to continue their success into the Calder Cup Finals, he added.
"I think the main thing that we have to do and that we've done in the past when I've gone to the Finals is that we've stuck with it. We were the best team in the season for a reason, and I think that's how we're going to get to the end. We're just going to keep playing hard and I think that's our strong suit."
Marketing the team and managing a crowded building
Team president Rick McLaughlin was available and put a lot of praise on the tough job that the ice operations and building crews are doing this week with multiple change-overs between Disney on Ice and Texas Stars hockey.
"We are a busy building with Disney on Ice, Texas Stars hockey and then we roll into high school graduations," said McLaughlin. "I am very proud of our staff, and they are very excited to have this success at this point in our calendar."
NHL parent club Dallas had a big emphasis this year on their "New Star Rising" campaign, which centered around a host of rebirths including new jerseys, new ownership, new coaches and GM and many new faces on the ice too.
"With the new ownership, it's pumped a lot of new energy into the program. All that energy and enthusiasm comes to us too. Seeing Nill and Ruff in the playoff games here, it's all looked at as one big family. We're excited to be part of this thing."
The NHL success of many players who once skated at the CPC is a marketable point for the team, but not always the first and foremost for McLaughlin.
"Marketing a minor league hockey team is a little different than in the NHL. We have to market good family entertainment and day of the week to get fans here. Having a proven track record of moving players up to the NHL is something that we do state. Our fans understand that they aren't just coming to see a minor league player, they are coming to see prospects that will eventually go to the NHL."
More to come tomorrow and Friday with the series starting this weekend. For now here are a few other tidbits.
- Desjardins did not rule out the return of Jack Campbell for the series. The second-year netminder was injured in Game 5 against Grand Rapids and did not dress for Game 6. More will be known today after morning practice.
- Desjardins intimated that Toby Petersen was injured blocking a shot in Game 4 but still finished the game with an injury.
- Disney on Ice is putting the Stars' practices this week at the Chaparral Ice. Coach Desjardins intoned that "it shouldn't matter" where the team practices. "You just have to be ready because there are a lot of things that can go against or you or go different. If that sort of thing throws you off, you're in trouble."