The Stars thought they had figured out some things against Central Division competition after a horrendous start to the season in that category - but losses to Chicago, Nashville and Colorado have them back on the "schneid," as it were.
Enter the Winnipeg Jets tonight, another Central foe that Dallas still has aspirations of catching following a five-goal performance that helped them out-last the Ottawa Senators to open this three-game home stand.
The Stars got it done as a group Tuesday, with Colton Sceviour and Shawn Horcoff's line generating, Ales Hemsky, and three goals from John Klingberg and Trevor Daley combined - nothing from the top guys, who perhaps weren't in top shape.
"With Benn being a little injured and Seguin being sick, I don't think he quite had his game," Ruff said of his big Stars Tuesday night. "They battled hard, they had an opportunity for the sixth (goal) in the third period but I think five-on-five there wasn't much else there. It was important those other lines got it done for us."
That having been said, they they practiced apart on Wednesday.
"I wanted to look at just maybe a little switch, little different scenery for Tyler and Jamie," Ruff said. "Sometimes for a period maybe, we'll take a look at it. Sometimes that helps a guy. Sometimes a little bitty change of roommates can get you going the right direction."
So...We'll guess they'll start together this evening, but these guesses are often wrong.
The most interesting guessing game, however, might be about who's in the Stars' net. Kari Lehtonen got an early hook on Tuesday night and Lindback allowed two more in relief but hung on for the win. So who starts tonight?
"I don't know yet," Ruff told media yesterday. "That's a good question, though." So we'll check back in after morning skate and try to figure that one out. One thing that does sound promising is that Vern Fiddler practiced on Wednesday and looks to be available this evening.
And then there's Winnipeg. Like so many teams the Stars have played lately, the Jets are kind of hot right now.
They're coming off an 8-2 trouncing of the Florida Panthers in their building Tuesday night thanks to four goals from Mathieu Perreault, and that makes 16 goals in their last three games. The Stars did something similar a couple of weeks ago, scoring 17 against the Wild, Coyotes and Blackhawks.
They took down the Kings 5-4 in a shootout and then turned around and lost in a shootout on the next night to the Anaheim Ducks- So it's not just the Panthers of the world on which they're hanging quite a few goals lately.
Then again, they've been scored on 14 times in their last four, and 29 times in their last nine for an average of 3.22 against in that stretch. It doesn't help that they've been shorthanded 5.11 times per game in the same nine-game span, including having to kill seven against the Islanders and seven against the Sharks.
Winnipeg took a 2-2 tie in the second period when last they visited the AAC and blasted the Stars for three unanswered goals before the second intermission. They scored shorthanded, on the power play, and chased Kari Lehtonen who was pulled in favor of Jussi Rynnas, who saved 13 of 15 in relief.
The Jets have experienced a plethora of well-documented injury problems this season, prompting the coaching staff to put Dustin Byfuglien back on defense, and he's propelling the team beyond all preseason expectations. CBS Sports.com explains:
Since moving back to the blue line, Byfuglien has routinely played between 27 and 29 minutes each game, which puts him among the busiest defensemen in the league. He has also been more productive in 18 games at defense as he was in 26 up front this year. The 29-year-old has 17 points since moving back after collecting just 11 as a forward earlier this season. He's also averaging over three shots on goal per game from the blue line, making him a continual threat to opposing teams. [CBS Sports]
Their lineup, or something like it:
In net Ondrej Pavelec has not won a game since December 16th, and he's not been given much of an opporunity to since as the youngster Hutchinson has taken over the starting position to great effect. He's 12-4-3 with a .931 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA.
From Stars PR: