The Dallas Stars have a tough test tonight against the visiting Blackhawks, rolling the same lines once more after a big win in Detroit. Also: Have Jamie Benn talks stalled? Or is there progress?
The Dallas Stars have played just three games so far this season but we're already starting to get a good sense for just what sort of team coach Glen Gulutzan wants them to be. With the Chicago Blackhawks in town, a team with four strong lines and strong defense, it's easy to see why the Stars have emulated teams like Chicago and Detroit during this "re-tooling" process of the past few years.
The Blackhawks are 3-0-0 on the season and one of the more consistent teams coming out of the lockout, primarily because of their ability to roll four lines throughout a game. On Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings, the Stars utilized a similar strategy to find success in what has been seen as a good stepping stone for these new-look Stars.
"We roll four lines, too," said coach Glen Gulutzan on Thursday, when asked about his concern about Chicago's depth. "I think most coaches, coming out of the lockout wanted to run four, and we're real comfortable running four. If it's a four-line matchup game then we like to talk about a 4-on-40: four lines, 40 seconds each. If that's the case tonight then we're comfortable with that."
A big factor in the ability of the Stars to play a more consistent team game on Tuesday was the performance of center Cody Eakin, who was moved up to the second line to play with Ray Whitney and Michael Ryder. Eakin had two assists and it's becoming clear that he could have a very significant impact on this team moving forward.
"He's a guy we watched down in the minor leagues and he was their most consistent player down there," Gulutzan said of Eakin. "He's got great speed, he's got some grit, he plays the game hard and he's got some good offensive ability. He can think the game and he plays on both sides. He just needs more experience and the more he gets the better a player he'll become. Now it's about moving forward and being consistent."
Coming out of morning skate the only real news is that Aaron Rome will not play tonight. With the Stars not practicing on Wednesday due to the holdover in Detroit, Rome's debut will probably not come until Saturday's game against the Blues.
With Rome out, the lines appear to be the exact same as in Tuesday's game in Detroit, per Mike Heika:
The good news is that Derek Roy appears to not have suffered any ill-effects from the late hit by Franzen in Detroit. Roy Whitney remains in a walking boot away from the ice, apparently, although he's expected to be able to play through the foot/ankle/lower body injury.
Here's video from the great Cody Eastwood on the skate this morning:
Jamie Benn Update:
There isn't any.
With the Stars set to play their fourth game without Benn (and if he isn't signed by today, he'll probably miss Saturday's game as well), it seems that the progress spoken of the past few days in talks has considerably slowed down.
Nothing new on Jamie Benn contract talks.Not much movement recently, talks appear to be an at impasse at the moment.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) January 24, 2013
From what we've been able to gather, the Stars and Benn seem to have come to the point where both sides feel they can't move much further without some sort of concession from the other side.
We're paying much closer attention to these negotiations than we normally would, seeing as how they've carried over into the season, but the simple fact remains this is just how these sorts of negotiations go -- but there is a growing sense of urgency that this is something that needs to happen sooner than later.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE:
TSN's Bob McKenzie, who has spoken of progress in these talks before, just had this to say:
Hearing RFA Jamie Benn is getting closer to a new deal with the Dallas Stars. Not done yet but sounds like it's headed in right direction.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 24, 2013
So, there's that.