Leading into Tuesday's home game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff called this a "crucial moment' in the season as the team looks to climb out of this deep hole they've put themselves in. It's been a long and frustrating start to the season and the Stars are trying to find the right combination of players, talent and effort to figure out how to correct the issues that continue to plague this team 18 games into the season.
"We haven't quite played complete games, we found 8 or 10 minutes in the San Jose game to lose it," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff on Tuesday. "Overall we played well against Minnesota and didn't get rewarded for it, made a couple of mistakes at the end that cost us. Now it's just about finding a way to push through and not get frustrated, to be the team we ca be -- we've been around every game, we've been leading or tied in third periods; that's the area we have to be better."
After Sunday's meltdown in Chicago, which is likely the new low point of the season, the coaches have now reached into the "drastic measures" part of the handbook to try and spark this team into action.
Which is how we're likely to see Cody Eakin centering the top line tonight between Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
Here were the lines this morning for the Stars, although there was a bit of confusion because of the jumbling.
Benn - Eakin - Seguin
Cole - Spezza - Hemsky
Roussel - Fiddler - Sceviour/Garbutt
McKenzie - Horcoff - Moen
"For me, I've got to get our top end going, I've got to get our 5 on 5 scoring from Seguin and Benn and Spezza and Hemsky," said Ruff regarding the changes in line combinations. "We're going to continue to struggle if I don't get them on the board, if they're not a positive influence on the board for us."
Lindy Ruff mentioned in the preseason he liked the idea of trying Cody Eakin on the wing with Benn and Seguin, but today was centering that line during rushes and drills and even found himself on the top power play unit as well. It's clear that the Stars are trying to not just find a better combination of players for chemistry sake, but also a bit more balance in the offense overall after it's become clear the "Super Line" perhaps isn't the best allocation of resources on the team.
Here's where some of the confusion lies -- Patrick Eaves skated with the team but wasn't on any line rushes. Ruff stated that Eaves could be a game-time decision, however, and will almost certainly play on Thursday if he can't play tonight.
Ryan Garbutt initially wasn't on the ice with the team, then briefly joined to skate on the third line before leaving the ice and not finishing the skate with the team. He will likely be a scratch tonight after suffering a bit of an upper-body injury in the last game.
For defense, the Stars are apparently trying to get Trevor Daley back on track by putting him on the top pairing with Alex Goligoski once more, while John Klingberg will be paired with Brenden Dillon.
Goligoski - Daley
Dillon - Klingberg
Benn - Oleksiak
Kari Lehtonen was the first goaltender off the ice and looks to be in net on Tuesday night against the Hurricanes.