CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island -- New Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said his team will play with pace this season and that’s the way his first practice began as training camp opened Saturday at the CARI Complex on the campus of the University of Prince Edward Island.
“We’ll practice that way -- pacey -- all the time,” Gulutzan said. “If you want to play pacey you have to practice pacey. The two have to be together.”
The Stars, 49 players in all, practiced in two groups Saturday with each one spending about 90 minutes on the ice. There was off-ice work as well, including video sessions. While the on ice work was pacey, the off ice work was detailed and thorough.
“Really good, very positive,” forward Toby Petersen said of the first day under Gulutzan. “I think the most noticeable thing is the attention to detail that he brings. We’re watching video and going over the new system and there is not much that is left uncovered. I think we all know what our job is going to be out there. Obviously we’re learning right now and there are going to be mistakes over the next couple days, but you can tell he has everything planned out.”
“I think the first day was great,” defenseman Stephane Robidas said. “Good video session before explaining the details of the defensive zone coverage. What they want, what they are expecting. Explain on the video and explain on the board, so everything is clear. We went on the ice and did drills with a lot of pace. We went straight at it and did a lot of D zone coverage. It’s something we’ll work on a lot.”
“I enjoyed it. I think he is a really smart coach,” Steve Ott said. “In the video session he is very thorough, very detailed. I think he makes it easy to understand. If he gets us all on that same page and to translate it on to the ice, then the system runs itself. That’s where we need to be, but we’re a ways from there yet.”
As for that defensive zone coverage, Gulutzan called it refining what the team did last season. Some of the players said the changes would not be a huge adjustment, but added that it was a simple, common sense approach that cuts out a lot of guesswork.
“There’s no gray zone. Everyone knows where they’re going,” said Robidas. “One defenseman always protects the middle and the other one protects the puck. There’s never two D in the corners. It’s a simple system. It makes sense. Sometimes today I was in front of the net and I felt like I am not doing much, but my job is just to protect it in case something breaks down. It’s little things like that, but it’s not a huge, huge adjustment.”
During the Stars’ stay in PEI, Gulutzan said he wants to get the foundation of the team’s game together. Defensive zone coverage is one part of it, and there is more he wants to get in place before the Stars play their first preseason game in Montreal on Tuesday.
“Our goal is to get our spine together. We talked about it, even a long time ago in the press conference, about getting the backbone of our game together, the non-negotiable items,” Gulutzan said.” That’s going to be the first three days of practice here, all those non-negotiable items -- our D zone, our tracking and our forecheck. That’s going to form the foundation for us. That’s our goal going in Montreal is to have that foundation in place.”
“I think our defensive structure will be important. I think our goaltending is solid with Kari (Lehtonen) and Razor (Andrew Raycroft), but we have to give them some easier looks. We have to have a better structure. I think offensively we have a lot of guys that are gifted and can do some things. I just think the overall structure of our team has to be better.”
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Saturday’s practice lineup