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Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ Columbus Blue Jackets (6:00pm CDT)

The Stars are in a tough spot tonight against a 2-0 team, still searching for their first win.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sport

The Dallas Stars struggled against the Central Division last season and find themselves 0-1-1 on that count already in 2014-2015. The Eastern conference was an even sorer spot for Jamie Benn's crew - a conference worst 13-17-2. They'll start trying to improve upon that tonight as they open inter-conference play against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

While the Stars are searching for their first win, the Jackets already have a pair, and head coach Lindy Ruff was appropriately complimentary of them ahead of this one.

"They've got some real good skill up front," he told media Monday. "That top line with Johansen, Atkinson and Nick Foligno, they've got real good numbers- Like numbers when it comes to even strength play. They've carried most of the play. They've had the puck a lot, but they're deep. They've got some good size. They've got some good speed and I think they've got a back end that has played very well for them."

As for Dallas' top skill, Benn and Seguin are a collective -6 on the season and have no points between them. Alex Goligoski, so good down the stretch last season, is already saddled with a -5 number in two games.

Is this the night they get going? A little confidence heading into Pittsburgh on Thursday for a daunting contest would be beneficial, to say the least. Dallas dropped both contests against the Jackets last season (3-1 loss at home, 4-2 loss in Ohio).

The puck will drop at about 6:07 p.m. CT on FOX SPORTS SOUTHWEST and SPORTS RADIO 1310/96.7 FM The Ticket.

The Stars:

The Stars changed the lines considerably in Monday's practice after generating just a single goal against the Predators Saturday, but Ruff's been known to search for chemistry in practice and then not use those configurations in games, and he admitted as much yesterday.

"I think with matchups sometimes on the road it might give me some different options," he said. "I told those guys it's something I want to look at in practice and we'll see where we're at when we hit the road."

So it could just be an option for when the chips are down. From practice yesterday:

Benn-Seguin-Eakin
Eaves-Spezza-Hemsky
Roussel-Fiddler-Garbutt
Cole-Horcoff-Sceviour

Goligoski-Daley
Benn-Dillon
Nemeth-Oleksiak/Connauton

Roussel and Garbutt lead forwards with two points a piece, but reacted poorly to the pressure of the Nashville game as both took penalties and put the Stars shorthanded when they needed to be attacking in a comeback effort.

There's a sense from the media that Cody Eakin really could see some time with Seguin and Benn to try and get them going a bit. Val Nichushkin is dealing with a lower body injury that's been bothering him throughout training camp and the opening week of the season. Add that to his illness and the sophomore is having a hard time making the strides so many supposed he would, but it's early.

At any rate, it would seem that there's opportunity there for Sceviour, Cole, and now Eakin to fly with the premier pair up front.

Kari Lehtonen should be back in net for Dallas.

From Stars PR:

Dallas newcomer JASON SPEZZA posted four points (1-3=4) in three games against Columbus last season, and comes into Tuesday's matchup having recorded points in four of his last five tilts against the Blue Jackets (3-5=8). The Stars center has tallied 10 points (3-7=10) in 10 career games against Columbus, including five points (1-4=5) at Nationwide Arena. SPEZZA has one assist and has a 64.0% faceoff-win percentage (16-of-25) in two games so far this season.

The Blue Jackets:

While the Stars try to move on after getting beat 4-1 by a plethora of former Stars in Nashville Saturday night, everything's going pretty swell for Columbus.

Eight goals for. Three against. Perfect on the penalty kill so far. They've only given their opponents four total chances in two games so far, so add good discipline to the list. They're only allowing 24 shots per game.

Consider also that Foligno, Hartnell, Atkinson, Johansen, and Anisimov (all top-six skill) have tallied 14 points between them in just a pair of contests. That's a good start. The kind Stars fans were looking for out of their shiny new top-six, we dare say.

Furthermore, consider that Columbus has out-attempted their competition in their first two games by a staggering margin of 126-83. Over 60% of the time the puck belongs to them.

They'll have last change at home and this is what they'll use to match up:

Foligno-Johansen-Atkinson
Hartnell-Anisimov-Wennberg
Calvert-Letestu-Dano
Skille-Chaput-Boll

Johnson-Savard
Erixon-Wisniewski
Tyutin-Prout

Bobrovsky
Not Bobrovsky

Here's how the local paper is telling it in Columbus, and how the Jackets' coaching staff is spinning it:

Expect a hungry performance from the Stars, who are seen as an up-and-coming team in the Western Conference but are off to a 0-1-1 start.

After Saturday's 4-1 loss in Nashville, Stars coach Lindy Ruff called out his club's top players. Top forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are each pointless with minus-3 ratings. Defensemen Alex Goligoski has a minus-5 rating.

"I think our top guys have struggled, and it's probably hurt us more than anything," Ruff told the Dallas Morning News "If they're going well, we're going to win. They've had a little bit of a tough preseason, and I think we're seeing a little bit of that still now."

Richards said he clued his players in on this after practice today.

"We're going to get a hungry team," Richards said. [Columbus Post Dispatch]