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Injuries, Lack of Secondary Scoring Forcing Line Changes For Stars As They Take On Islanders

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Marc Methot will likely miss tonight’s contest, and one of Tyler Pitlick, Radek Faksa, and Brett Ritchie are unlikely to be able to play.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Dallas Stars were so injured from the start of the season that they didn’t ice their full lineup until at least two months into the season. It’s like they got all of their injury bad luck up front.

This year, they started off the year healthy from the start - and have been pretty lucky the first month of the season. Until now, that is.

Marc Methot missed two practices this week, in which the team had three days between games, and is unlikely to be able to play tonight. Radek Faksa, Tyler Pitlick, and Brett Ritchie are all supposed to take part in morning skate today. It seems likely that one of them cannot go tonight, as the Stars recalled Curtis McKenzie from the Texas Stars this morning.

On the radio with The Ticket on Wednesday night, head coach Ken Hitchcock talked about splitting up the top line in order to try to spark some scoring further down the lineup. He’s going to accomplish this by doing something that hasn’t happened since before the Stars acquired Tyler Seguin and center depth - move Jamie Benn to center.

Benn was successful as a 1C in Dallas when he needed to be. So he won’t look out of place there tonight, even if it’s been a while since he’s played that position specifically. The good thing is that he’s often been taking faceoffs on his strong side, so he’s not rusty with that particular centerman duty.

Lines for tonight will likely resemble something like this based on practice yesterday:

Gemel Smith - Jamie Benn - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel - Jason Dickinson - Tyler Pitlick/Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn

Ben Bishop will get the start in net tonight.

I’m most interested in the top two lines here. It seems like a lot of speed with some equal distribution of offensive skill. Maybe Dallas can roll out more than one line tonight that can score. That’ll be a nice change, won’t it?

I’m very not sold on that third line, though. Spezza needs guys that can finish playing next to him, and so far, Elie hasn’t shown that at the NHL level - and Hanzal hasn’t been lighting it on fire this season, either. Maybe it’s kind of a reverse psychology thing - give him guys that are more likely to pass and make Spezza take all the shots on that line. I guess it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

I’ll be curious to see how the defense will play tonight. Methot is a steadying force most nights, so to have him out will jumble the pairings (again). I do think that the Lindell-Klingberg pairing has been the best for the Stars this season, and I’d expect that pairing to do a lot of the heavy lifting on minutes played tonight.

They banged up Stars will face a New York Islanders team that is on a bit of a roll lately. They’re 6-3-1 in their last 10, and are currently 6-3-2 against Western Conference teams. In those 11 games, they’ve scored four or more goals six times. They’re the third best team in terms of scoring per game, averaging 3.60 goals per game.

So they can light it up on offense.

Luckily (for Dallas, anyway) they’ve only allowed less than two goals against in just four of their first 15 games. The rest have been 3+ goal against games. The Islanders are actually 22nd in the league in goals against per game (3.13, compared to Dallas’ 2.87 GAA, good for 13th in the league).

Maybe it’ll be just the type of defensive style the Stars need to see some secondary scoring come online (i.e., the “defense optional” kind of defense). With evenly distributed speed between those two top lines, and Lindell and Klingberg on the backend, we might be in store for a very north-south style of game tonight. It sure would be a nice change from the ugly chip-and-chase we witnessed when Dallas took on the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night.

Puck drop is at 7:30 PM tonight, and it’ll be shown on FSSW locally as well as your usual radio home on The Ticket.