The Dallas Stars, still clinging to the last gasp of playoff hope they have for this season, returned to practice Tuesday morning with a few adjustments to try and solve the season-long issues on home ice.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff has never been shy about moving his lines around, so what was out on the ice in Frisco this morning may be just a one-day thing rather than any real strategic move. Still, there are plenty of interesting facets to discuss, especially given what they ran at forward.
Stars lines today: Benn-Spezza-Seguin; Roussel-Eakin-Sceviour; Garbutt-Fiddler-Hemsky; McKenzie-Horcoff-Ritchie; Moen-Eaves-Nichushkin— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 17, 2015
The power line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza had mixed reviews when it was a major player earlier this season, but it made several appearances on the recent road trip. And it makes sense that the Stars are looking at it at home, as the offense at the American Airlines Center has been inconsistent at best over the past six weeks.
Since the start of February, the Stars are averaging 2.56 goals per game at home. That number drops to 2.12 when you take out the offensive bonanza against the Detroit Red Wings, though, and is only 1.33 in three games this month. For whatever reason, the Stars can't seem to find consistent offense at the AAC right now, and putting together the three most dominant offensive forces in the lineup is likely a move to counteract that.
Additionally, the Stars have been protecting Tyler Seguin at wing since he returned from his MCL sprain. He's looked very mobile for a guy taken out at the knees a little more than one month ago, but he's admitted he's not near 100 percent (nor will he be until the start of next season), so keeping him on wing and away from both the defensive responsibilities and the tight checking of the center role makes total sense.
On the lower lines, it looks like Ryan Garbutt will slot back in after three consecutive scratches but away from his more typical mates. Ruff has said that Garbutt's benching was as much due to his lack of offensive production as anything else - Garbutt hasn't scored a goal in 2015 - and the team was winning without him on the East Coast. Given all that, now would seem to be an ideal time to try and get him going again.
It's a little surprising that Patrick Eaves would be the player to shuffle out of the lineup, which is implied by his work with the injured players, but he has been quiet with two points in his last seven games, both against the Washington Capitals.
There was no word about the defensive pairings, but given that Jamie Oleksiak was recently sent back to Cedar Park, that would seem to bode well for the health of John Klingberg, who has missed the past few games with an upper body injury sustained at the hands of Zac Rinaldo.
Klingberg was riding a four-game point streak before that Flyers game and is the leading scorer among rookie defensemen (sixth among all rookies). His 0.68 points per game is fourth among all rookies, trailing just Johnny Gaudreau (0.78), Filip Forsberg (0.76) and Mark Stone (0.682). He's well ahead of the pack in defenseman points per game as well, as Aaron Ekblad's 0.5 points per game mark is the only one in the neighborhood.