Perhaps Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan will finally have all of his toys to play with.
Stars center Jamie Benn will be a game-time decision for tonight's matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks, but if he does return it will not to rejoin former linemate Jaromir Jagr.
"Jamie will be a game-time decision," Gulutzan stated after morning skate. "He skated today, shot a few pucks. He feels great, other than the wrist, but he'll be a game-time decision."
Benn has missed the past two games with a wrist injury but looked like he should be able to go during morning skate, although officially he will be a game time decision tonight after warmups. The Stars' top player had been going through a fairly rough patch before the injury, however, as the chemistry between Benn and Jagr continued to seem to be a work in progress.
After a flurry of goals and points to start February Benn had cooled off considerably, with just three assists in six games while going minus-8 during that span. Benn had looked less and less like himself leading up the injury and it seemed at times as if he and Jagr were trying too hard to get things done on their own, with both taking away chances from the other.
Now, with Benn perhaps able to return tonight, Mike Heika reports the lines at morning skate were thus:
Eriksson - Roy - Jagr
Whitney - Benn - Cole
Morrow - Eakin - Smith
Nystrom - Fiddler - Roussel
While it certainly would have been nice to see Jagr and Benn really connect and tear the NHL apart, it was clear that perhaps the playing styles of the two big playmakers were just too disparate for the combination to really work.
"I think we are about 30 percent of what we can play. We can get a lot better,'' Jagr said last week in regards to his chemistry with Benn. "I play a different style than he is used to, but it's tough for me at my age to change. I cannot dump and chase, I'm not fast for that. So I like to keep the pucks, and he has to adjust. I know it's not his game, but he is so far doing a good job.''
So perhaps this was just a natural spot to try something different. It will be interesting to see how Roy and Jagr are able to connect as both are playmakers in their own right. The pair have shown some nice chemistry on the power play at times, however, and both are adept at carrying the puck into the zone.
The Whitney-Roy-Cole line from this past week received raving reviews but it seems this new combination should be the best balance that Gulutzan can find now that he has all of his pieces to play with.
It's fitting then, that now that the Stars might actually have their full compliment of players on the ice, that the Chicago Blackhawks are in town. No better way to really test the full roster than a game against the very best, is there?
Be advised, lines in morning skate have sometime not reflected the actual lines that Gulutzan has used in the game. So there's that caveat.
Ryan Garbutt has a hand injury and will likely not play tonight. If Benn can't play, Tomas Vincour will slot in, with lines likely looking similar to Thursday night's game against Anaheim (I'm guessing).
Philip Larsen will be a healthy scratch tonight, so defensive pairings should be:
Dillon - Robidas
Benn - Daley
Oleksiak - Goligoski
Gulutzan stated that Larsen showed some rust against Anaheim, which was to be expected, but that they wanted to get Oleksiak back on the ice. He hinted they'll likely not wait another seven games to get Larsen back out there in a game.
Lehtonen will be in net. Puck drops at 7 p.m. ET.