The Dallas Stars will attempt to right the ship with the exact same lineup and line combinations as Tuesday night's game game against the Kings, banking that a renewed team focus and internal accountability will be enough to pull out of the slump. With the Predators in town the Stars have a tough task on their hands and heading into Thursday's game, one big focus has turned to the power play.
The Stars power play, bouyed by the play of the Super Line, looked downright deadly at times through the first few games of the season. With the offense, however, the power play has dried up and on Tuesday the top unit had quickly regressed to the "form a five-man umbrella and keep it to the outside while idly passing" method that hasn't exactly worked so well.
As such, the big change for Tuesday will be the addition of Antoine Roussel on the top unit for the power play, with Alex Goligoski being replaced at the point by Jason Spezza.
"We're looking for more net-front," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "I think that we have good skill on the power play. We need somebody that's willing to really take one for the team - stay in there, hunker down. We've got some good shooters. We need a guy that can take the goalie's eyes away. If he can't see it, he can't control rebounds. We're not getting enough pucks in. We're trying a lot of seam plays, a lot of perimeter plays. By getting one guy on the inside, we're hoping for (better results). It's probably a simpler look, but in a lot of cases, the most successful ones are built around somebody being around the front of the net."
Roussel has been perhaps the best overall forward for the Stars this season, and certainly the most consistent. His forte is driving the net and causing all sorts of havoc around the crease, something the Stars desperately need right now for the power play.
"I am just trying to help the team and be in front of the net," said Roussel. "I've been in front of most of the net five-on-five, so maybe it will be easier to get to the net on the power play. I just want to help the power play get going. I am not the one to make plays. I am going to be in front of the net, get the retrieval and get it back to the big boys."
There have been suggestions from the outside that perhaps someone like Oleksiak should be that net-front presence given his size, but Roussel's hands are good in close and his experience in playing this sort of game is what has led to this change.
"He's got four goals," said Ruff on Roussel. "We're not taking somebody...you know somebody suggested maybe putting your biggest player there like Boston. They're talking Chara...or Oleksiak would be ours. But he's got quick hands. He can score. He works at it every day and this is something we're going to take a good look at."
Kari Lehtonen is expected to be in net on Thursday, with Lindy Ruff still saying that Anders Lindback will get into a game in the coming week. Given Lindback's performance against Nashville last game, and the importance of the Stars as team needing to get back on track, it's not a surprise that Ruff goes with Lehtonen tonight -- but what about Saturday against the Sharks?
This is the tough spot a coach is in when there is no confidence in the backup netminder.
There has been a lot said about accountability on the team after this five-game winless stretch, and Lindy Ruff has made it known that there will be consequences for poor play. Goligoski has struggled on the power play and now he's off the top unit; Jordie Benn was effectively benched against Minnesota over the weekend. Roussel has been playing well, and he's rewarded with power play time.
"The message to the team the last couple of days is your ice time, if you're not deserving of it, it won't be there," Ruff said. "Let's start making sure that everybody pulls their weight."