The Stars got serious this morning and split the team into an NHL practice and an AHL practice.
While coach Marc Crawford said not to read too much into the split, it did seem to be important that Severin Blindenbacher practiced with the NHL group, while Philip Larsen and Brad Lukowich practiced with the AHL group. Also with the AHL group was Aaron Gagnon, so as well as he's played, there still is a bit of an uphill battle there.
The group that will play Friday against the Avalanche is expected to be this one:
James Neal-Brad Richards-Loui Eriksson
Fabian Brunnstrom-Jamie Benn-Steve Ott
Jonathan Cheechoo-Aaron Gagnon-Brandon Segal
Luke Gazdic-Ondrej Roman-Colton Sceviour
Nicklas Grossman-Stephane Robidas
Karlis Skrastins-Severin Blindenbacher
Jeff Woywitka-Maxime Fortunus
Kari Lehtonen is scheduled to play all game with Richard Bachman dressed as his backup.
That should be a great preseason team, and it is clear that Crawford is turning up the heat and increasing expectations.
Adam Burish practiced on the right wing with Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro, and should play there Saturday night. Jonathan Cheechoo will play the left side on Friday and see how that works.
Severin Blindenbacher will get the chance to play with a veteran (and fellow European) in Karlis Skrastins, so that should help him adapt a little better.
The Stars are very interested in seeing if the Brunnstrom-Benn-Ott line continues the magic it showed on PEI.
And I'm kind of curious to see Luke Gazdic. I think he's the future enforcer of this team, and we really haven't seen him that much.