Lindy Ruff may be only two games into his coaching tenure with the Dallas Stars, but he is making sure his players grasp the urgency of their first road trip of the season.
The well-rested Stars kick off a three-game swing Friday night against their Central Division rivals at Winnipeg, where the Jets will try to rediscover their offensive spark.
Dallas (1-1-0) has been idle since a 2-1 victory over Washington on Saturday as Alex Chiasson's go-ahead goal in the second period stood up as the game-winner. Chiasson, a late call-up last season, is the first player to score eight goals in his first nine games since Rob Gaudreau had 14 in the first 13 games of his career with San Jose in 1992-93.
"I just play my game. That's my main focus. As long as the team wins, that's all I care about,'' Chiasson said.
While Chiasson appears to be an anchor on Dallas' second line, Ruff has spent the week's worth of practice tinkering with his other three - most notably moving Rich Peverley up to the top line to flank center Tyler Seguin and left wing Jamie Benn.
"On some of those setups, he'd just be the centerman," Ruff told the team's website. "It's a natural position for him and Tyler is used to playing right."
In addition to juggling his lines, the veteran coach sees an opportunity to have his team grow up quickly in the new-look Central Division after coming over from the Pacific.
"It adds up a lot more than you think. You can set the tone early," he noted. "You can get a feel for a team early. We want to be a team that can go on the road and just play the same way shift after shift and have a team on the road say, 'Boy, those guys are tough to play against.' When you get to that point, you can be a real good team."
Stars goaltender Keri Lehtonen likely will get the start. Originally the second overall pick by the Jets/Thrashers franchise in 2002 when it was located in Atlanta, Lehtonen won his only game against his former team in 2011.
Winnipeg (2-2-0) has dropped back-to-back games after winning its first two and is coming off a 2-1 defeat Thursday at Minnesota. Bryan Little accounted for the offense with a 5-on-3 power-play goal in the final minute of the first period, but the Jets had only 15 shots on goal for the game and were unable to find an equalizer after falling behind midway through the second period.
"I don't think we had a lot of jump,'' captain Andrew Ladd said. ''They do a pretty good job of clogging up the neutral zone, and to get shots you have to get pucks back.''
Little, who has three goals and a point in all four games, and Dustin Byfuglien - who has a team-leading five assists - have been the only consistent sources of offense for Winnipeg. The Jets scored 10 goals and registered 61 shots in winning their first two games but have totaled three and 32 in the two defeats.
Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made 28 saves in Thursday's loss and is 2-0-0 at home lifetime versus Dallas. Backup Al Montoya has yet to play this season and made only one relief appearance against the Stars, stopping all 13 shots he faced in 2011.
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