Improving penalty kill a priority for Stars

Getting the goals against down is a big priority for the Dallas Stars this season and one way they can accomplish that is improving the the penalty kill.

“That’s a huge part of [getting the goals against down],” said defenseman Stephane Robidas. “It’s a big part of our game that we need to improve from last year. I think the two main focuses of training camp were the penalty kill and five-on-five in our zone, our defensive play.”

The Stars’ penalty kill was a sore spot last season, ranking 27th in the league at 77.4 percent and the 65 power play goals they allowed ranked 24th in the NHL. The PK was a contributing factor in an overall goals against average of 2.98, which ranked 23rd in the league.

“Everybody knows we were 27th in the league on the PK and that’s not good enough,” said Robidas. “It’s something we needed to focus on and something we have been focusing on.”

A good part of that focus during training camp and the preseason has come off the ice with video sessions.

“In our day and age our players are very visual learners and video is a great instrument for that and, let’s face it, it’s a tough thing to practice,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “It’s hard to simulate the blocking of the shots, getting in the lanes and the physicality that happens from a penalty kill. We recognize it’s an area we can attack and we have.”

As far as on the ice, the Stars are taking a more aggressive approach in their penalty kill this season. That can mean disrupting the opposition’s breakouts, pressuring entries and being aggressive in the defensive zone.

“As the saying goes if you take away time and you take away space, they have to rush their plays or they have to chip it off the boards and maybe get a bobble,” said Crawford.

“I think that’s the mentality that we want to have,” said Robidas. “We want to be a lot more aggressive and be aggressive every chance we’ve got and that’s what we’ve been doing in the preseason. I think so far it’s been pretty good.”

The numbers say it’s been pretty good. In six preseason games the Stars were 31-34 (91.2 percent) on the penalty kill. Of course, the real test will come in the regular season but the preseason numbers are worth noting.

“It’s just preseason but I think we are heading in the right direction and I think we’ve got to keep building on that, building confidence in our system and confidence in ourselves that we can kill penalties,” said Robidas. “That’s why we play the preseason. We want to have a good feeling going into the season that, yes, we’re a different team than last year and we want to prove it.”