Yesterday the Dallas Stars ran a practice focused on puck possession and doing the little things along the boards and in tight spaces to help address their issues when battling for the puck, as well as in their transition game up the ice. While the management in Philly is taking the scorched earth path with the flailing Flyers, Lindy Ruff and company continue to feel that supporting and coaching their team will help right this sinking ship.
Part of that is some tough personnel decisions, and after what seems like about four game too many Jordie Benn will be a healthy scratch tonight.
The elder Benn was a solid defender for the Stars last season and while his overall possession numbers aren't nearly as bad as Trevor Daley's, his mistakes have certainly stood out much more egregiously. While the Stars have had some troubles on offense, most of those issues stem from the lack of a true transition game and turnovers from the defensemen when moving the puck up the ice; Jordie Benn was a big part of that issue.
In his place steps Jyrki Jokipakka, the Stephane Robidas of Stars prospects, who brings a calming presence in the defensive zone and who won't make many mistakes. He's not nearly aggressive up the ice as Jordie Benn, but perhaps his presence will help Jamie Oleksiak continue his improved play.
"His defending overall," said Ruff when asked about what he likes about Jokipakka. "He's played against some pretty good lines, his defending through those games and in the preseason was really good."
Defensive pairs at morning skate were thus:
Daley - Goligoski
Dillon - Klingberg
Jokipakka - Oleksiak
For the forward lines, not much has changed from the last game other than Ruff trying another winger next to Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. This time it's Antoine Roussel, who aside from Tyler Seguin has been the best overall player for the Stars this season, and who could bring some much-needed grit and net-crashing ability to a line that has been all about show and not enough finish so far this season.
"I think when you look at his game, he's great at getting to the net," said Ruff on Roussel. "I thought the other night that Hemsky had some great looks, Spezza had some great looks, I'd like some more traffic when they get those looks. [Roussel] is the best we have t that, without Garbutt in the lineup we've already shuffled that around. We'll give it a look and see if that can help them get something 5 on 5."
Lines looked like this:
Benn - Eakin - Seguin
Roussel - Spezza - Hemsky
Moen - Fiddler - Eaves
Cole - Horcoff - Sceviour
Eaves draws back in after missing a few games with an injury, with Curtis McKenzie getting the healthy scratch.
The decision to sit McKenzie in favor of Moen is rather dubious, especially considering that McKenzie has been doing everything that Ruff is wanting from his team throughout this trying time. He's played with speed, has made great plays backchecking, he's one of the more physical forwards on the team and he drives the net.
Kari Lehtonen, despite what I might have thought, will be in net tonight against Arizona.