Alright, let's just get this out of the way immediately.
Jamie Benn. Jamie Benn. Jamie Benn. Jamie Benn. Jamie Benn. Jamie Benn.
(And Ales Hemsky.)
Yes, tonight's Dallas Stars preseason game against the St. Louis Blues has a little more intrigue than usual as it marks the first return to competitive action for both of the Stars hip surgery twins. Hemsky is 22 weeks out of his single hip surgery and Benn 21 weeks out of his second of two procedures. That's five months for Hemsky and slightly less for Benn in a surgery with an advertised six-month recovery time.
The two participated in most of training camp, taking in just one intrasquad scrimmage while the rest of the players had two. Both have reportedly looked and felt good on their surgically repaired joints.
it will be nice to see Hemsky at full strength, as he was clearly bothered by the hip injury at least part of last season. And it will be extremely nice to see the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner back in full form.
What will be even more fun is the first look at the line that's had everyone drooling since it was first composed on paper - Benn alongside Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp. Seguin and Sharp showed strong early chemistry in Saturday's pre-season win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and reports from the few practices with the three of them are extremely encouraging.
Here's the full set of reported forward lines from the morning skate, courtesy of Mark Stepneski:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Remi Elie - Radek Faksa - Colton Sceviour
So three NHL quality lines along with a last line heavy on prospects with a possible fourth liner to round it out. The notable absences from the forward side of the lineup are Valeri Nichuskin and Vernon Fiddler, who skated with Travis Moen in practice. Jason Dickinson and Curtis McKenzie, both a little dinged up, skated before the practice.
This will be a really interesting test for Janmark, who has been impressive in preseason games (if really penalty happy).
The defense is, if possible, even more of an NHL preview with Alex Goligoski paired with John Klingberg, Johnny Oduya paired with Jason Demers and Jordie Benn paired with Jyrki Jokipakka expected to play. That fits with reports that Patrik Nemeth has not been quite as impressive as Benn and Jokipakka in camp and exhibition play thus far and is therefore more likely to start the season as the seventh defenseman.
Antti Niemi will be in goal, as it's his turn in the preseason rotation after Kari Lehtonen started on Sunday. Make of that what you will given the dress-rehearsal nature of the rest of the lineup.
Here's some video of the notable suspects this morning:
The Blues are bringing quite a formidable lineup of their own. They still have 33 players left in camp, so they'll be giving a bit more ice time to youngsters, but players scheduled to travel include David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brian Elliot and the line that ripped apart the Stars last week, Alex Steen, Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko. Oh, and that guy named Steve Ott. He should be at the AAC as well.
There will likely not be a legal video stream tonight, but the game will be available on radio (and audio stream) with Dave Strader making his Stars debut alongside Daryl Reaugh.