The injury bug has struck the Dallas Stars a bit, and that combined with the illness finally fading out of the team means there will be a few lineup changes tonight as the Stars try to halt their skid with a home game against the New Jersey Devils.
Both Jordie Benn (reaggrivated lower body) and Patrick Sharp (lower body) will be out of the lineup at least tonight and possibly longer. Sharp has apparently been battling something for a long chunk of the year, according to coach Lindy Ruff at Thursday's practice, and has been shut down for a few days. He will not make the road trip with the team to Canada but may be back for the home game against the Chicago Blackhawks next Friday.
Benn has missed six games over two stints with this injury already, and Ruff described this time off as because of "a little complication." He will be out 1-2 weeks, meaning that both Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak should get longer looks in the sixth defenseman's spot.
Patrick Eaves has started skating again after being out with pneumonia but isn't quite ready to be back. He skated late this morning with Travis Moen and Oleksiak. Kari Lehtonen was the first goalie off the ice.
With Sharp and Eaves not options and Moen skating late, the biggest opportunity looks like it belongs to Brett Ritchie, recalled yesterday and skating on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin today. Here are the morning skate lines:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky
Radek Faksa - Vernon Fiddler - Colton Sceviour
With Benn out on defense and Kris Russell getting more settled in to the line, Ruff also shuffled his defensive pairs meaningfully for the first time in a while. We'll see how long these stick in the game, but it looks like they'll be starting with new addition Russell alongside John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth next to Alex Goligoski and Johnny Oduya still with Jason Demers.
The Devils didn't take a morning skate after traveling last night. The only thing to be sure of about their lineup (or as sure as we can ever be given that coaches like to play mind games) is that Cory Schneider will be in net.