After missing almost all of the season so far, it appears that Dallas' two Russian players are edging close to a return.
Both forward Valeri Nichushkin and defenseman Sergei Gonchar skated with the team this morning, a positive sign as the two continue to recover from injuries.
Val Nichushkin and Sergei Gonchar skating on fifth "line" with Curtis McKenzie at practice Monday.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) October 27, 2014
Nichushkin dressed for the Stars' first two games, but did not look 100%. He was fighting what's being reported as a hip/groin issue during training camp, but apparently hadn't recovered fully in time for the start of the regular season. He was kept out of the lineup ever since to allow for the injury to heal completely. Gonchar, who suffered an ankle injury during the preseason after being hit by a puck, has yet to play a game.
While it's encouraging that both players are skating with the team again, it appears that they still have a ways to go before we'll see them in game action.
"Both guys are progressing," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, as quoted by Mark Stepneski. "Val has had a couple good days. We didn’t know if he was going to make it through the whole practice, but he did. They are going to need a little time to get back in the grind. We’re at stage one and we are going to move them along."
As such, it appears that Ruff wants to stick with the same lines that he used this weekend, which showed signs of improvement compared to games against the Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks.
Stars lines this morning: Benn-Spezza-Seguin Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt Eaves-Fiddler-Hemsky Cole-Horcoff-Sceviour— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) October 27, 2014
Ruff also had some interesting things to say this morning about Anders Lindback, and the backup goaltending position in general. Lindback is 0-2 on the season with a troubling .850 save percentage after allowing six goals to the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
"I had a meeting with him. He wants some of those (goals) back. He is really hard on himself. My job is to help support him. He knows he needs to play better. His practice habits and everything are good. We’re talking about some things – it’s not stuff I am going to discuss right now – we are talking about options to get him playing better.
When asked about whether or not Lindback might get sent down to the AHL in favor of Jussi Rynnas or Jack Campbell, Ruff said that it's something that he and his staff are taking a look at.
"The answer, I think, ultimately is yes. You can put Rynnas in there. You can put [Jack] Campbell in there. You’ve got to play well. It’s no different than a fourth line player that goes in and out. You’ve got to play well. If you want to stay in you’ve got to play well. He understands his role and knows that he has to play well."
Gunnarsson, Elliott In For St. Louis, Stastny and Tarasenko Likely Out
The Stars take on the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, and luckily for the Stars it appears that they won't be the only ones with players missing from the lineup.
The Blues will likely be down two of their top forwards for the game. Paul Stastny will miss the contest with a shoulder injury, while Vladimir Tarasenko is battling illness and is unlikely to dress.
Stastny is wearing a regular practice jersey and doing some drills. But he is not involved in contact, sitting out of line rushes. #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) October 27, 2014
They will, however, benefit from the return of defenseman Carl Gunnarsson, who will make his season debut with the team.
Brian Elliott, who is 2-2-1 on the season with a .922 save percentage, will start in net for St. Louis.