The big news coming out of Dallas Stars skate today ahead of taking on the Los Angeles Kings, is that if Cody Eakin is able to play then Ales Hemsky could find himself as the odd-man out and a healthy scratch tonight against.
Eakin is dealing with a nagging chest injury that the Stars want to ensure is 100% before getting him back on the ice and running the risk of it continuing to be an issue, so the Eakin and Hemsky situations have been deemed as "game-time decisions" for the coaching staff. If Eakin is able to play, then lines will go back to featuring the Super Line that was so prevalent at the start of the season.
Benn - Spezza - Seguin
Roussel - Eakin - Garbutt
McKenzie - Fiddler - Eaves
Cole - Horcoff - Sceviour
Goligoski - Klingberg
Benn - Daley
Dillon - Oleksiak
Kari Lehtonen will be in net.
Regarding Hemsky and the probable healthy scratch, coach Lindy Ruff had this to say today:
"He's going to be a game-time decision for us," Ruff said. "We don't know if Eakin is going to be ready, so I've asked him (Hemsky) to put a little extra work in."
"I think he has a lot of frustration in his game, which is understandable," Ruff said. "I spent some time with him and looked at all of his chances, and he's had some great opportunities and hasn't finished. I think some of that has the best of him right now."
For his part, Hemsky seems to be taking the scratch in stride and a chance to work on getting his game back in order.
"I just have to stick with it, work hard," Hemsky said, via Mike Heika. "If it doesn't go for you, even if you don't score, you have to do different things. I just want to be a positive force. I have to attack the net more, but I feel like I'm shooting enough. I just have to take the puck to the net."
It's certain that the news that Hemsky will be scratched tonight will be met with anger and frustration by Dallas Stars fans, as this is a player who has done almost everything right so far this season aside from getting the point production many expected. One assist in 15 games is tough to stomach for a free agent brought in to help provide depth scoring and to shore up what was hoped to be a deep second line -- instead, Hemsky has bounced around the lineup and has yet to really find his groove so far with the Stars.
While the points haven't been there, Hemsky has been one of the better and more consistent forwards when it comes to two-way play and no one can accuse of him of being "lazy" or not playing hard enough or not having enough effort. In fact, Hemsky really hasn't played all that poorly and when compared to others on the team -- he's been one of the brighter spots so far in a frustrating season.
Except for scoring.
For whatever reason, Hemsky and Jason Spezza haven't yet meshed the way many expected them to. Part of that is Spezza's struggles to score away from the power play and away from Benn and Seguin, and part of that is just due to some poor puck luck and inconsistent play when the two have been together. Hemsky has struggled to find offense with other lines he's been on, and when you add it up you have a player touted for his offense who isn't scoring -- no matter what the other positives might be.
Originally, I met this news of Hemsky's scratch the same as everyone else. Why not scratch Shawn Horcoff, or Erik Cole, or Patrick Eaves or even Colton Sceviour? Why not put Hemsky with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and see if he can find his offensive touch with the two players best suited to take advantage of his passes?
However, after hearing Lindy Ruff speak about the situation and what Hemsky had to see -- this isn't a scratch meant to be a "punishment' or to "send a message."
Sometimes, a player just needs a moment to take a step back and get a bit of perspective on the game from afar and get back on the ice with a renewed focus and vigor and freshness to his game -- and that could be what Ruff is going for here. Hemsky has been good up and down the ice, but he has struggled to create the offense many expected. He's now forcing the issue and getting himself into turnover trouble in the offensive zone, and this could be a way to get Hemsky back into his groove and see if taking a one-game break is enough to get him out of this slump.
It's a gamble by Lindy Ruff, that's for certain. The good news is that Hemsky is being professional about it and taking it as an opportunity to improve, and that's all that can be asked.
It's a bold move, though. Let's see how it plays out.