Stars vs. Canucks Line Combinations, Starting Goaltenders: Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars No. 1 Center?
The Stars will have the Big Three on the top line tonight against the Canucks. Will it be enough?
The Dallas Stars face Willie Desjardins and the Vancouver Canucks tonight at the American Airlines Center and when the team takes the ice, Jason Spezza will be your number one center. The other top centers on the team, Tyler Seguin and to some extent Jamie Benn, will be beside him as coach Lindy Ruff continues to search for the right combination and chemistry for his team early in a season full of inconsistency.
"Just going to focus on the areas we need to improve," said Ruff about what he expects Tuesday night. "Some of our puck management wasn't good, some of those decisions hurt us inside the game. Again, I thought we took a couple of penalties I referenced as stupid. Those mental mistakes hurt us in a game. We've had some tough breaks, but I thought some of that stuff in the last game we brought on ourselves."
Spezza has had an interesting start to his career in Dallas and the Western Conference (although three of the five teams faced this season have been Eastern teams) and while he hasn't exactly struggled, it's clear it's taken him some time to get comfortable with the new team, system and coach.
There were flashes of brilliance, but the Stars second line with Spezza and Ales Hemsky paired with whatever random left winger happened to be playing with them at the time never truly found a groove either offensive or defensively. Against Pittsburgh, with the game on the line, Ruff moved Spezza next to Benn and Seguin and then stuck with that configuration against Philadelphia in a 6-5 overtime loss.
Spezza told NHL.com that he appreciates how Ruff has handled his transition to a new team and how he's been implemented and used.
"Lindy has been great with me so far," Spezza told Dan Rosen of NHL.com. "There has been good communication. There hasn't been overcommunication, which I've kind of appreciated because sometimes you're fearful that you're too worried about everything. Maybe I was guilty of that the first few games. You're thinking so much about the system and suddenly you forget to play. Lindy has been great with me. He has things he'd like to see me do, but for the most part he's allowed me to play and put me in good situations. I respect what he's done as a coach so it's nice to have him as a coach."
Ruff noted on Monday that he wants to stick with this configuration for the time being, especially as he gets Spezza more involved in the game, but will need much more from the rest of the lineup for this to work. That didn't happen against Philadelphia and defensively, the Stars were a disaster, but he's going to push for at least one more game before another big shakeup.
As of now, here is what the Stars will be icing on Tuesday night.
The Eakin line was destroyed by Claude Giroux and company on Saturday night and Ruff specifically mentioned how he needs that line to be effective for these lines to work. The Stars took great leaps over the summer in order to build a second line centered on Jason Spezza, but now the Stars essentially have one incredibly powerful top line to go with what are essentially three third lines.
There has been some consternation among fans about how little Sceviour has played, especially after apparently looking like a decent fit on the top line, and will draw back in on the fourth line after being a scratch Saturday. Ruff noted on Tuesday that Sceviour hasn't been the same just yet after his shoulder surgery in the offseason.
"Sceviour, came off a pretty serious injury and he missed parts of camp and I don't think he's quite caught up yet," said Ruff. "In my case, I'm trying to patient. I don't think he's played as well or skated as well as he did last year. I think that part of that has to do with missing a lot of good conditioning time over the summer."
On defense, Oleksiak draws back in after Patrik Nemeth's injury on Saturday night. Jyrki Jokipakka was recalled from the AHL and has had just two practices with the team. Ruff has shown he wants his callups to get at least a few days, if possible, of practices under their belt before they get thrown into their first NHL game. Meanwhile, Oleksiak will have the chance to prove he deserves an extended look rather than just a game here or there.
Kari Lehtonen will be in net for the Stars.