The Dallas Stars should get a boost to the defensively-responsible part of their forward lineup on Saturday as center Rich Peverley is expected to return to the lineup for the game against the Washington Capitals.
Here's the official word from the incomparable Mike Heika:
Rich Peverley (irregular heartbeat) expected to return to lineup Saturday vs. Washington, per Lindy Ruff. Playing 4th line center.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) October 4, 2013
Peverley missed the opener and all of training camp and the preseason after team trainers discovered an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) that had to be corrected. The recovery time for the procedure was estimated at three weeks, and three weeks from when we first heard about it would be today. So just on schedule, he was skating without the red no-contact jersey in Friday's practice.
Last season with the Boston Bruins, Peverley scored six goals and 18 points in 47 games for the Stanley Cup Finalists. He had 42 points in 57 games the season before and is known as a defensively responsible center who can win key faceoffs. With the Bruins, he was a center who took many of the key draws when Boston was pinned in its own end.
While many (myself included) are eager for some lineup shuffling after the defensively unsound performance from some lines in the opener, the coaching staff is obviously looking at the big picture by working Peverley back in slowly. Yes, he has been skating with his teammates for a few weeks now, but he was strictly a non-contact player until Friday's practice and has not had a chance to get in game shape.
So for Saturday's game, the lines are expected to look something like this:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Erik Cole
Ray Whitney - Cody Eakin - Alex Chiasson
Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel - Rich Peverley - Ryan Garbutt
Chris Mueller, who did a solid job but only got six minutes of ice time after Garbutt was tossed early and Roussel sent to the box for 12 minutes, looks to be the odd man out from Thursday's lineup with Lane MacDermid remaining in the press box.
The idea of putting Peverley on the fourth line for the moment is to ease him back in to NHL play, though I'm not sure I'd use that phrase given he's playing with the recently-ejected Garbutt and always-instigating Roussel. There's never much ease about the way that line plays.
The Stars do have a five day break after the game against the Capitals, which won't help with Peverley's game shape but will give the coaching staff ample time to work out some of the defensive coverage kinks. Regardless, it will be the first time the Stars can practice with their full complement of forwards this season. That can only be a good thing at this point.
Here's Peverley talking about his return in the post-practice media scrum.
And here's Ruff talking about Peverley's return and what the Stars were working on in Friday's practice: