One of the Dallas Stars’ biggest challenges this season has been a carryover from last season: an overabundance of defenders and no clear and consistent picture of how they should be deployed.
But with the emergence of Esa Lindell as a top-two blueliner, the team’s biggest puzzle may finally be cracked, writes Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News:
The best way to solve a puzzle is to start at the base, and that's what Stars coach Lindy Ruff seems to have done. In the past month, Ruff has solidified his top defensive pairing, and much has fallen in line because of it. By placing rookie Esa Lindell next to John Klingberg, Ruff has given the defense a foundation to build around. And while that's only one part of the adjustments that have helped shape a December that has been downright defensive, it was a needed first step.
"Everyone wants to have a consistent partner, so it is very important," Klingberg said. "I think he and I play well together, so of course I hope we keep playing together."
Ruff launched the 3-23 pair in late November, when both players were struggling and needed a new look. It’s turned out to be something of a masterstroke:
One key is that Lindell has the skill to keep up with Klingberg but also has the size (6-3, 215) to defend. Last season, Klingberg (6-2, 180) and Goligoski (5-11, 185) were often manhandled in the defensive zone. Lindell's nose for defense has added a needed element.
"That pairing has been really strong," Ruff said. "I think it's built chemistry that can defend against the big lines. It has an offensive touch, too, with John getting up ice, and Esa can help us offensively, too. It's a pair that can help us offensively and it's a pair that's been able to defend."
There’s always more at Mike’s place. [SportsDayDFW]
Mark Stepneski has posted his preview of tonight’s home contest against the Colorado Avalanche.
And Mike Heika writes about the unexpected impact of Lauri Korpikoski.
Patrick Eaves misses most Stars practices these days to rest a slow-healing injury, but it only seems to help him focus on performing in games.
Patrick Eaves keeps missing practice, but he’s not missing a beat https://t.co/SIeTorgG3G— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) December 29, 2016
The Avs will be without starting goalie Semyon Varlamov, who remains sidelined with a groin injury. [Denver Post]
Coach Jared Bednar said Semyon Varlamov is getting reevaluated again today and won't make the trip to Dallas.— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) December 28, 2016
Meanwhile, the team’s woeful season to date has led to inevitable trade speculation, this time surrounding core players Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. [The Hockey News]
If you hate Jordie Benn because all the cool kids are doing it, the cool kids at Ask Winners are here to tell you why you shouldn’t.
Julius Honka impressed more than just Stars fans with his pre-Thanksgiving call-up: He appears alongside the likes of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Zach Werenski among The Hockey News’ top NHL debuts of 2016. [THN]
It was an otherwise quiet night in #Murder, but Robby Fabbri scored his first career hat trick to propel the St. Louis Blues to a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. [UPI]
OK, here’s your combo-platter long read of the day: As the Edmonton Oilers prepare to offer blueliner (and former Star) Kris Russell a more permanent position, the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples wrote an article about why Russell has become a symbol of the dissonance between and within the ranks of eye-test and fancy-stats devotees.
Why there’s such furious disagreement on the merits of Kris Russell of the Edmonton Oilers | Edmonton Journal https://t.co/OJceWRVgTW— David Staples (@dstaples) December 27, 2016
When Hockey-Graphs blogger @DTMAboutHeart got hold of this piece, it prompted as epic a tweet-storm from a fancy-stats connoisseur as you’re likely to see all month. You really need to visit the timeline to read the whole thing, but here are a few samples. [DTMAboutHeart]
Public data tracking these exact things suggests this isn't true at all pic.twitter.com/SfBIu1N1Nj— DTM About Heart (@DTMAboutHeart) December 27, 2016
These ratings are entirely subjective pic.twitter.com/V1hGTljdji— DTM About Heart (@DTMAboutHeart) December 27, 2016
Once again, entirely subjective pic.twitter.com/uqAo3z6iTJ— DTM About Heart (@DTMAboutHeart) December 27, 2016
Both sides also like to talk as if their work is proven fact when in reality only one sides work actually comes with any proof pic.twitter.com/8GKuwKqZHk— DTM About Heart (@DTMAboutHeart) December 27, 2016
ICYMI, Stars defensive prospect Joseph Cecconi grabbed two assists in Team USA’s victory over Slovakia in last night’s World Junior Championship action.
Stars prospect update from Day 3 of the World Junior Championships https://t.co/pkPrSpOQDG— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) December 29, 2016
You’ll be happy to know that this has helped them prepare to face the real teams. (Please note, the full article isn’t nearly as backhanded as its social-media promo. Or its opening paragraphs.)
Meanwhile, Gare Joyce is still wondering how and why high-performance engine Alex DeBrincat didn’t survive the U.S. team’s final cut. [Sportsnet]
The Phil Kessel World Cup snub – and the deathless tweet that summed it up – is just one of Sean McIndoe’s five dumbest NHL controversies of 2016.
More roster moves for the Texas Stars: As forward Jason Dickinson returns to Cedar Park, netminder Philippe Desrosiers returns to Boise.
Finally: Your new meme has arrived. A fan at last night’s USA-Slovakia game decided he needed the comforts of alcohol more than a public display of affection. (Oh, like you’ve never thought about it.) Enjoy.