Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal took an extended look at potential defensive pairings in a scrimmage during the second day of training camp Wednesday at Cedar Park Center.
Similar to the NHL parent club, the Dallas Stars, Texas has eight defensemen who have a legitimate chance of playing on opening night against the San Antonio Rampage. Of those eight, there’s an even split between left and right-handed shots, giving Laxdal a handful of options to work with.
“That’s great, as a coach it’s exactly what you want,” Laxdal said of the balance on defense. “I think last year there would be times we’d have five lefties in the lineup, and teams prepared for that. Now, with (Stephen) Johns coming in and Honks, that’s a pretty good right side.”
For the White Team, Finns Esa Lindell and Julius Honka where the top pairing. Honka said the duo spoke Finnish on the ice, while they spoke English on the bench.
“Less confusing that way,” he said.
Brennan Evans and Matt Mangene where the second pairing, and Evans stay-at-home mentality worked well with Mangene’s ability to push the play.
For the Green Team, Mattias Backman and Stephen Johns where the top pair. Both play a similar game — while Johns is more physical — that could work well this season.
Jesse Blacker and Ludwig Bystrom where the second pairing, and had more of an offensive focus with two players that like to jump into the play.
Of course it’s all subject to change — that’s what training camp is for — but Laxdal liked what he saw from the group.
“Moving forward to this weekend and the exhibition games, we’ll start to solidify the pairings,” Laxdal said. “There’s a lot to experiment with. But, I think having that righty-lefty combination is not only going to help us in our breakout and defending fast, but it’s going to help us in the offensive zone. It’ll allow us to slide the blue line and get shots to the net faster.”
Cole Martin and Andrew Panzarella, a pair of right-handed free agent invitees, where the third pairing for Team White. Jake Rutt was the fifth defenseman for Team Green in the scrimmage.
Overall, it was a strong showing on the back end in a scrimmage that featured three goals during three 15-minute periods.
Philippe Desrosiers and John Muse split time in Team Green’s net and each turned away 14 of 15 shots. Maxime Lagace played the whole scrimmage for Team White and stopped 12 of 13 shots.
Brendan Ranford scored in the first period for Team White, while Branden Troock countered in the third period on a deflection.
The scrimmage converted to 3-on-3 play for the final six minutes, and Team White scored after Devin Shore, Matt Mangene, and Greg Rallo pieced together a tick-tack-toe passing playing for a goal.
“We got that first (3-on-3) goal, Stephen Johns wasn’t too happy about it. He gave me some mouth about it,” Mangene joked. “But, it’s going to be fun in 3-on-3. We have depth this year and teams are going to struggle with us.”
Taylor Stefishen-Gemel Smith-Matej Stransky
Brendan Ranford-Cory Kane-Brandon Magee
Greg Rallo-Devin Shore-Cam Braes
Esa Lindell-Julius Honka
Brennan Evans-Matt Mangene
Colton Beck-Justin Dowling-Branden Troock
Emil Molin-Taylor Peters-Derek Hulak
Mads Eller-Travis Morin-Cole Ully
Mattias Backman-Stephen Johns
Ludwig Bystrom-Jesse Blacker
Cole Martin-Andrew Panzarella