Welcome back to Dallas Stars preseason panic?
The Stars actually hope to quell a little of the exhibition nerves tonight as they head out to the East Coast for a 6:30 p.m. game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the offense has been there in many games (though in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, not so much), the play has been a little sloppier on defense and in goal, leading to quite a few tense shoulders around the fanbase.
It still exhibition play, where the lines are often made up and the points definitely don't matter, and everything has to be couched in those terms. But a lot of nervous people may relax just a touch if the Stars prove they can recapture the stronger defensive play they showcased in the back half of last season.
Mark Stepneskim, as always, has your lines:
Valeri Nichuhskin - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp
Remi Elie - Cody Eakin - Mattias Janmark
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Patrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie - Vernon Fiddler - Travis Moen
Given some of the position battles, I wouldn't be surprised to see Janmark jump up to the top line (or at least 2/3 of it) at times. According to Bruce LeVine, he was practicing with the top power play unit this morning alongside Seguin, Eaves, Sharp and Klingberg.
Sure, he almost certainly not hold on to that role when everyone is back in the lineup (this group is missing a full half of the top six, after all). But it's another great shot to show what unique skills he can bring to the lineup in comparison to players like McKenzie, Faksa and Elie, who are also fighting for that final forward spot.
Jason Dickinson did practice with the team this morning after getting a little dinged up earlier in the preseason. He, Jason Spezza, Colton Sceviour, Jamie Benn, and Ales Hemsky are the ones sitting tonight.
Since it's preseason, it's not a surprise that the team has rotated some more players to days off again, but Ruff did say that he expects both Hemsky and Benn to play in the preseason finale Saturday at Chicago.
The defensemen will also be a little mixed up, as Alex Goligoski and Johnny Oduya both get the night off. That leaves John Klingberg, Jason Demers and Jordie Benn along with the three guys who are likely fighting for the sixth spot - Patrik Nemeth, Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak. Nemeth will get some prime minutes next to Klingberg while Benn and Demers try to rekindle their magic from last season.
As scheduled, Kari Lehtonen will start and play the whole game. Ruff has been stalwart in leaving the starting goalies in for 60 minutes no matter what chaos is going on in front of them.
The Lightning haven't been entirely happy with their preseason performance to this point either, especially the thumping they took at the hands of the Stars on Saturday.
Their full lineup was frustratingly difficult to find, but there was this bit of news from the Tampa Bay Times:
Captain Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman are among those not playing tonight. Ben Bishop will likely start, with Kristers Gudlevskis playing the second half of the game.
Video and audio streams for tonight's game also appear extremely questionable at this point, though there is a live chat scheduled for the TBT site.
Until then, enjoy the sights and sounds from the Stars morning skate in Frisco: