No one is quite sure what exactly Ales Hemsky has done to find himself in the doghouse of the Dallas Stars coaching staff, but the highly skilled winger will likely remain there tonight as he looks set to be a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.
Hemsky stayed out with young defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka after the rest of the team had left the ice for morning skate, indicating that those two are the scratches for tonight's game against the Winnipeg Jets at the American Airlines Center.
It is the third healthy scratch of the season for Hemsky, who was signed in the offseason to add some scoring pop to the Stars top lines. But the offense hasn't been there consistently, and the coaching staff has made comments referencing they will play the people who show the highest work rate. Whatever the reason, he is certainly wearing the cone of shame at the moment.
The team might be as well if they can't get on track against the Central Division. The Stars have played some strong games against the likes of Chicago and Minnesota but have yet to pick up a regulation win within the division and have lost several games by large margins. But Lindy Ruff said the fact that tonight's game is another chance to get that monkey off the team's back is only part of the larger picture.
"Every game is important for us right now," Ruff said. "We took a good step in the right direction again. I think it's becoming a consistent team, where we're not two steps forward and two back. We've got to win games. It doesn't matter Central Divison, you name it. We've got to win games."
That's actually something the Stars have finally started to do at the American Airlines Center.
After starting the season seemingly unable to pick up two points at home, the Stars have now registered points in their last five consecutive home games.
"It's trying to be consistent through the three periods," Ruff said. "We've had some real good games here where we've maybe let some points slip away. But I think the consistency's been there (recently)."
That was probably best exemplified by the game against the Canadiens. Even though the third period got off to a slow start, the Stars were able to get it under control rather quickly instead of seeing it spiral into lopsided scoring chances. It was an encouraging sign, if only for one game.
Another thing that will stay consistent, at least for this game, looks to be the lines. Hemsky took part in line rushes on Saturday before he was eventually scratched, so we all know how accurate these are, but for full disclosure, this is what the Stars were running this morning:
Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Colton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzie-Jason Spezza-Erik Cole
Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff-Vernon Fiddler-Travis Moen
On the blueline, things looked like this:
Alex Goligoski-Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn-Jason Demers
Jamie Oleksiak-John Klingberg
With Kari Lehtonen looking like the starter, that's exactly the same lineup the Stars ran out there on Saturday against the Canadiens. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
Lehtonen has some sparkling numbers against the ghost of his former team, with a 4-0-1 record with a 1.50 GAA and a 0.956 save percentage against the Jets. But Winnipeg has been markedly tougher this year, getting better goaltending from the much maligned Ondrej Pavelec. They will be without the talented Evander Kane, however, who is serving the first of a two-game suspension for boarding.