The Dallas Stars haven't been all that consistent with their lines this season - it's a bit of a running gag among some of the reporters covering the team to keep track of just how many line combinations there have been after all.
But heading into what may be one of the most difficult stretches on the schedule, Stars coach Lindy Ruff went full shaken-and-stirred on his forwards at Thursday's practice.
Lines in no particular order.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 10, 2016
The biggest news here is obviously the splitting up of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who have functioned essentially as one unit since Seguin's arrival in Dallas when both are healthy. They have been split up for a period or two in the past, and given the slumps both are in right now, it makes sense to try and jump-start their games with new line mates.
The slumps are both concerning and unlucky. Since January 1st, both players are sporting 91.9 individual PDOs, compared to identical 102's in the first part of the season.
Jamie Benn's shooting percentage, in particular, has taken a nosedive to 4.7 percent in 2016. In the 2016 part of the campaign, he was right around his career average with a 12.2 percent rate. Some of that is a slight drop in individually-created high-danger scoring chances (49 in his first 39 games to 31 in his last 29, though the overall scoring chance rate has seen a slight uptick), but a lot of it is a combination of luck and gripping the stick too tight.
Much like the Alex Goligoski memorial scratch, splitting up Benn and Seguin theoretically allows both to hit the mental reset button. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then the solution is to make changes. Plus with Benn, Seguin and Jason Spezza split up across different lines, it could create a nightmare of a matchup question for opposing teams, particularly if they get rolling with their new linemates.
The defense, meanwhile, looks frighteningly young as Jordie Benn, Jason Demers and John Klingberg remain shelved with various injuries. All were present for the team picture (and Demers did not appear to be in a sling), but none took part in the team practice.
The team did give an official update on Demers, who has a shoulder injury and will be reevaluated in six weeks. Klingberg, Jordie Benn and Patrick Sharp are all still out through at least Saturday's game against the St. Louis Blues.
With those three defensemen still shelved, the Stars put together the following lineup:
Alex Goligoski - Kris Russell
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Jamie Oleksiak - Patrik Nemeth
On the surface, that appears to be a prototypical offensive pair, a prototypical defensive pair and a pair to shelter as much as possible. If that is how the Stars actually deploy the pairings against the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, it will be a baptism by fire for Johns with difficult minutes against some of the best teams in the NHL.
Until tomorrow, though, it's team picture day, so enjoy the official portrait of the 2015-16 Dallas Stars.
Your 2015-16 Dallas Stars pic.twitter.com/qRl0rtcOud— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 10, 2016