In search of a patch to plug their suddenly leaky defense, the Dallas Stars appear to have shuffled their forward lines.
It's been a fairly epic little run of defensive ineptitude for the Stars over the past three games, with 18 goals on 98 shots allowed since the calendar flipped over to 2014. There have been multiple culprits, from shaky goaltending to poor defensive zone coverage to some terrible turnovers. So shaking up the forwards is a reasonable attempt to answer at least part of the problem.
As the great Mike Heika mentioned on Twitter, there's no morning skate scheduled tomorrow before their game with the New Jersey Devils, so the lines in practice today were likely meaningful. And boy did they look a little different.
Dallas Stars lines at practice today: Benn-Seguin-Peverley, Cole-Eakin-Nichushkin, Whitney-Fiddler-Chiasson, Roussel-Horcoff-Garbutt.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) January 8, 2014
It's not a huge surprise that recently named Russian Olympic team member Valeri Nichushkin was bumped off the first line. That's been one of Ruff's go-to moves this season when the first line either stops scoring or starts leaking goals (which is the problem this time around). Rich Peverley is considered one of the better defensive forwards on the team and should help that line from running around so much in their own zone.
But moving Nichuchskin to the wing with Erik Cole and Cody Eakin is a little bit of an interesting move. Cole has been among the Stars hotter secondary scorers recently, and he's a volume shooter. Eakin is also at his best when sending pucks to the net, though he also will likely be the puck pursuit player of the three. Nichushkin's role on that line could be to really drive the front of the net, but I will be interested to see how this trio clicks.
It will also be interesting to see if extended time with his old buddy Ray Whitney can get Alex Chiasson rolling again in the goal scoring department.
And I'm just going to go ahead and mark down the fourth line for at least one offensive zone penalty in advance. Both Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt have been the guilty parties in several recent games of really preventable offensive zone calls, and Shawn Horcoff had his share of issues with that early this season. The Stars penalty kill has been leaky recently, which is only compounding the problems.
There was no word on any defensive sets at the practice, and with no morning skate tomorrow, we'll probably find out who the scratch will be fairly late. On the plus side, no news is probably good news with regards to the two recently-returned defensemen.