While Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said he didn’t want to get involved with a media back and forth about the Anaheim Ducks, he didn’t stray from making his opinion heard in regard to Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau’s claim that the Stars’ physical play Monday night crossed the line.
Dallas beat Anaheim 3-0 Monday night to pull within 2-1 in the best-of-seven first-round Stanley Cup playoff series. Kari Lehtonen stopped 37 shots. Jamie Benn, Ryan Garbutt and Valeri Nichushkin each scored a goal.
But the buzz was about the physical play by both teams.
“I didn’t see anything go over the line,” Ruff said. “I watched almost every physical situation. That might be a public outcry — lobbying for more penalties. Bruce is a good coach. I saw Trevor Daley get shoved in the back and turn around and respond to it. I saw [Antoine] Roussel — might have been a light wash to the face, but it wasn’t a punch until he got hit with six punches.”
Ruff, lobbying on his own behalf, said that he believed the Stars got the short end of the stick on a few calls in the game.
He said Monday night and again Tuesday that he believes this kind of physical play is just part of playoff hockey. With more on the line, emotions and physicality are heightened exponentially with each game.
He said he expects Anaheim’s physical play to far exceed anything the Stars have seen to date in this series.
“I think they are going to try to be harder on our guys and our guys are going to be ready for them,” Ruff said.
Ruff’s comments were in response to questions asked about Boudreau’s observations of the Stars’ physical play after Monday’s game.
“I think it was pretty obvious out there,” Boudreau said. “We’ve warned the refs about them.”
One of the biggest instigator of physical play was Roussel, who was involved in a scrum with Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf has worn a face protector since Game 1 when he took a slap shot to the face.
As Roussel saw it, it wasn’t even the emotion of playoff hockey driving his physical play. It was another day on the job.
“I think it’s just regular hockey,” he said. “It’s day-to-day basic hockey. It’s just the way I play, I guess.”
Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon skated in the team’s optional practice Tuesday in Frisco in his first group action since he suffered a leg injury in the Stars’ regular-season home finale against St. Louis.
“Today was a big step,” Dillon said. “I’ve skated the last two days on my own. I guess I was the best player on the ice the last two days being on my own, but being out here with the guys today was good, getting up to the pace. It is feeling better and better.”
Ruff said his return for Game 4 was possible, but unlikely.
“I think Game 4 is a long shot, unless he walks in my office and demands it, which I could hope could happen, but I’m not banking on it,” Ruff said.
Dillon saw action in 80 regular-season games, collecting 17 points and leading the team with 168 hits.
Stars forward Erik Cole was scratched Monday despite being one of the team’s more veteran playoff assets in his fourth postseason appearance.
Ruff said it was a tough decision to make, opting for rookie Chris Mueller in Game 3.
“I don’t think since [Cole has] come back from injury his play has been where I needed it to be,” Ruff said. “In fact, there was some situations that have been tough on the team. You have to make decisions about that stuff and that was a hard decision. That was just my decision.”