Word came down from practice in Frisco today that the Stars forward group will have a little bit of a different look when they take the ice against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night. The Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn love connection, celebrated mightily across North America after the Stars big wins just last week in Carolina and Washington, is getting split up to accommodate the return of Steve Ott to the lineup.
Last Wednesday morning after the Stars dismantled the Capitals it was said by many: "No way they break up Benn, Eriksson and Ryder when Ott gets back."
"Yeah, Ott's going to go with Benny and Ryder, and Loui's going to go with Ribs and Morrow," said Coach Glen Gulutzan after practice Thursday morning.
The conventional thinking (by fans) was that Steve Ott could slide in with the Ribeiro line and the Benn trio could keep trucking. A three game losing streak later and some time to chew on it, Gulutzan arrived at the conclusion that a shakeup makes sense for more than one reason...
"We made this change just because we'd have had two guys playing out of their natural positions." [if Ott had played with Ribeiro] said Gulutzan. "Loui's played right for five years. He can play both, but Otter hasn't played as much right as Loui and it's easier just to have them in their [natural] positions and I think it gives us some balance."
Even when Ott played heavily with Ribeiro in the injury-riddled season of 2008-2009, it was at left wing with Loui Eriksson on the right side. This gives both players a chance to play on their natural sides and it shuffles things up after three games with no offensive pressure to speak of.
In their last two outings the total even-strength shots on goal for the Benn line are as follows: Eriksson: 2, Benn: 5, Ryder: 0. Then Ribeiro line, in those two games had totals of: Morrow: 2, Ribeiro: 2, Burish: 3.
Continued after the jump...
As for other concerns, Gulutzan addressed the possibility of Philip Larsen finally cracking the lineup.
"There's a good chance that he'll get in a game. He's not going to go Friday. We'll see how we come out of that game but there's a good chance."
So the Toby Petersen experiment at the point on the power play could continue into the weekend. His line-mate Krys Barch is not suffering any lasting effects from the ankle injury suffered Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.
"Barchy's going to be fine. He tweaked his ankle a little bit but he can get through. It's not one of those high ankle sprains."
That probably means no call-up from Cedar Park but the Stars still find themselves a body short of what they had been used to. With a schedule full of home games coming up they'll probably play it by ear and leave the Texas Stars at full(ish) strength for the time being. If they make it through the next eight games with the status quo then they'll have to make a decision who to take (call-up wise) on a lengthy five game road swing out east in early December.
As for the outcome of the Avalanche game, Gulutzan is just looking for his team to be competitive again. "Friday night you don't get as fixated on the result as you do the effort after a game like Tuesday."
Meaning that like the February slide of last season, the Stars might have to make steady improvement for a few nights before they get their game from where it was on Tuesday all the way back to a team that can win in this league.
What do you think about the new line combinations?