Dallas Stars Morning Skate: Valeri Nichushkin Bumped From Power Play?

Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

The rookie winger had some rough moments with the puck in recent games against the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins, and while he remains on the top line, it does not look like he will get any power play time against the Detroit Red Wings.

By any measure, the Dallas Stars are going to have a successful three-game road trip no matter what the result is tonight against the Detroit Red Wings.

But a win at Joe Louis Arena would be a nice bow on the present, wouldn't it?

As part of that quest for a win at the former home of Stars general manager Jim Nill, the Stars are shaking things up on their fairly stagnant power play for tonight's game. The lines were mixed up a bit at morning skate, though the first unit still boasted a four-forward look.

And yes, there was one notable absence.

Rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin did fight the puck last game. He's still penciled in as the right wing on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, but Lindy Ruff has pulled him from the special teams units after some costly bobbles.

"Val had a tough game last game, but that is the ups and downs (of being a rookie)," Ruff said to the Dallas media after the skate. "When he’s going well, he’s going to get key time, and when things aren’t going to go well, you’re going to earn your time. We’ve got lots of veterans sitting in behind. I’ve told him, ‘When the opportunity is there, I’m going to get you opportunities.’

"Some of the play we had on special teams, on the power play… we did some great things. Our faceoffs, our zone time, we had 2-3 great chances we don’t finish. Some of that was good, but I thought some guys misplayed some situations. It’s a little bit of a juggling act going on."

Nichushkin has just over six minutes of total power play time in the last two games as neither game was a particularly special-teams heavy contest.

The Stars have dropped to 25th in the league with an 18.8 power play conversion rate, though that is dragged down by their goose egg at the American Airlines Center. The road power play percentage has dropped to 18.8, though, which is just outside of the top 10 in the league but falling quickly.

And the ineffectiveness at key points of the game is a problem that needs to be immediately addressed.

"It’s made the games closer when we could have put games away," Ruff said. "We’ve had some situations where we could put games away, even in Ottawa. Boston the same thing. We had the opportunity where it could make the difference. We had a couple great looks. I think when you’re struggling, you get a little bit of tunnel vision.

"The Daley look late where Whitney is wide open, that really should be a goal. So you look at those situations and you think, that’s the perils of maybe you yelling some times too much if you get a case where you want to get pucks to the net. We’ve tried to stay away from that for the most part, but those are plays that will usually turn into goals."

The defensive pairs look to be the same tonight as they have been the past several games, and the ever-dependable Kari Lehtonen is in goal against Jimmy Howard. Ideally, the Stars will not need Lehtonen to keep them in the game against a 15-1 shot differential again tonight.

The Stars return home on Saturday for a game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, then get three days off before heading back out on the road for a late fall swing through western Canada.

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