Despite the multitude of changes to the roster and line combination fluctuations over the course of the season, theDallas Stars and coach Glen Gulutzan want nothing more than consistency. A consistent effort from period to period and from game to game is all that any team really wants and strives for, and accomplishing that feat for the Stars this year has been rough -- to say the least.
Wednesday night marks just the third game this season the Stars will have the full roster on the ice and despite being 28 games into the season the Stars have struggled with chemistry and consistency because of that fact. Gulutzan has also experimented with his line combinations and seems to have settled on something he wants to stick with, at least for a little while.
Mike Heika reports from Colorado that the line combinations against Colorado will be the same as from Monday night against Calgary:
Whitney - Benn - Eriksson
Morrow - Roy - Cole
Smith - Eakin - Jagr
Nystrom - Fiddler - Roussel
With Philip Larsen still ill, defensive pairings will also be the same.
So, while the Stars have certainly had a few stretches of games in the past with the same line combinations, it appears as if Gulutzan is going to do his best to stick with these combos for now despite some mixed results. The Stars were shellacked by Chicago on Saturday and then started with a bang in Calgary, before nearly coughing up a three-goal lead and barely hanging on for the win.
So, the Stars are preaching consistency and a coach that is criticized for perhaps tinkering with lines too much is practicing what he's preaching.
It is important to note that even without any formal changes to the lines, the Stars barely played a full period with these combos against Calgary. Several Stars players were ill during the game and the team was forced to juggle lines in the second and third period -- so we still haven't seen exactly what this group as a whole is capable of.
Kari Lehtonen will be in net and there's still no word on tomorrow's starter against Los Angeles. The Stars seem very hesitant to rush Jack Campbell into a start he might not be prepared for, but it's clear he's gaining some valuable experience just being with the NHL team for a week or so. Campbell has shown this season he understands he needs to have patience and that his turn in the NHL will eventually come, and it's seemed to have calmed him down between the pipes in Austin.
Hopefully the historically-amped Campbell can learn a lot from the calm and collected Lehtonen.
The Stars have also shown this season to be a much better team on the road, as the players seem to embrace the simple life of travel and being focused solely on hockey while with teammates.
"When you get on the road, you get away from thinking you have to do something special or put on a show," Eric Nystrom said, per Heika. "You come on the road and you just play a simple game, you don't have to try to impress anybody. That's really helped us this year, we've been playing strong and simple on the road and that's huge."
The Stars will be facing a determined and motivated Avalanche team, which has been shaken up by coach Joe Sacco. Shane O'Brien, Jamie McGin and David Jones will all be healthy scratches on Wednesday night as the Colorado coach searches for players willing to step up and end a four-game slump for the Avs.
"It's a case of just underachieving," Sacco said on Wednesday. "The bottom line is I have to put some guys in there that I think can maybe provide us with a little bit more at this time. The same thing with McGinn; he's been struggling lately. He's had a good opportunity playing with Duchene and Parenteau, and he needs to play a physical game consistently all the time, not just parts of the game.
"It's a message to the team, too," Sacco added. "It's not good enough. We've lost four games in a row and we need to be better. As a team, we can't wait around for guys to get their game. Hopefully it won't be long-term, but we'll see."
These two teams will be division rivals once more next season and are now two teams desperately fighting for the postseason. Should be a good one.
Puck drops at 8:30 p.m. CT on FSSW+.