The Dallas Stars are in limbo, unsure of who they will play in the Stanley Cup Final and when exactly it will begin.
So they’re adjusting on the fly.
“We’re obviously not playing tomorrow, but we’re preparing as if we’re going to play possibly Saturday, if not it’s Monday,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said Wednesday. “You roll with the punches. We had a plan if we played Thursday. We have a plan if we play Saturday. We have a plan in place if we play Monday. We’ll take advantage of the rest. It’s important. We are banged up.”
The Stars, who advanced to the Cup Final with a 3-2 overtime win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Monday, have their schedule mapped out through Friday in preparation of potentially playing Game 1 on Saturday.
The players had a golf outing Tuesday. They practiced Wednesday. They’ll do another off-ice group outing Thursday. They will be back on the ice to practice Friday.
The Cup Final likely will start Saturday if the Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the New York Islanders in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the conference finals and Cup Final, on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). The Islanders avoided elimination with a 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 5 on Tuesday.
An Islanders win in Game 6 would force the East Final to go to Game 7 on Saturday, likely pushing Game 1 of the Cup Final to Monday.
“We don’t know if we’re playing Saturday or not, but we know what we’re doing as a group right up until Friday,” Bowness said.
That includes the coaches preparing for the next opponent.
Bowness said he and assistant John Stevens are breaking down film of the Lightning. Bowness was an assistant on coach Jon Cooper’s staff in Tampa Bay from 2013-18, so he knows the Lightning well.
Dallas assistants Derek Laxdal and Todd Nelson are breaking down the Islanders.
“We’ll be well prepared regardless of who we play,” Bowness said. “We have time now to take a good look at both teams. There will be no surprises.”
For the players, the time in between rounds will be spent resting, recovering and healing the bumps, bruises and other various injuries that have accumulated on their bodies since they played an exhibition game in the Edmonton bubble July 30.
The Stars played 21 postseason games in 43 days.
Bowness didn’t provide updates on any of their injured players. Goalie Ben Bishop, forward Radek Faksa and defenseman Stephen Johns remain unfit to play as of now.
“It’s great to have a couple days off and get well rested before the Final starts,” Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen said. “It’s a little bit better than playing every second day.”
The challenge, as it has been since they arrived in Edmonton on July 26, is finding things to keep them busy while they are off the ice, but that’s why it was good that the Stars were able to organize a golf outing Tuesday and another planned off-ice activity Thursday.
“Guys are going to take advantage of having a couple days to recover, rest up,” forward Blake Comeau said. “We’ve played a lot of hockey this last little while, so it’ll be good to have a couple extra days to be healthy, be rested, and make sure we’re ready to go when we do start up.”
There likely won’t be much of a mental break though.
Comeau said the Stars have been thinking about the opportunity in front of them since they started working out together in the summer.
“We all took the approach that if we were going to start back up that we had as good of a chance as anyone,” Comeau said. “I think everybody had that mindset whether they were in Dallas or whether they were in their home country, home city. Everyone made sure that when they came back, they were in great shape and everyone had the right mindset.
“People were going to be making big sacrifices to come to the bubble, so we wanted to make it worthwhile. We said from the start the way to make it worthwhile was coming home with the Stanley Cup. We took a big step to get to the Final; now we’re hitting the reset button and we’re getting ready to go.”