The Dallas Stars have won three of their last four contests, but don’t expect had coach Lindy Ruff to rest on his laurels heading into an important three-game road trip. The Stars will take on the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, the Calgary Flames the next evening and then the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, November 17.
For an 8-7-2 Dallas team that is currently in seventh place in the Central Division, this is an important early-season sequence. The squad appears to have put the early-season struggles behind them, but Ruff isn’t ready to let bygones be bygones just yet.
He shook up his lines in a big way in practice this morning. Looking at the changes, it appears that Ruff is trying to create a checking line while spreading out his forwards and getting a bit tougher to matchup against line-for-line.
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reported on the shakeup this morning from the Stars practice. He wrote that the lines looked like this:
Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Valeri Nichushkin
Ray Whitney-Vern Fiddler-Rich Peverley
Ryan Garbutt-Cody Eakin-Alex Chiasson
Lane MacDermid/Antoine Roussel-Shawn Horcoff-Erik Cole
Ruff spoke to Heika about the changes after practice:
Going on the road, even going on this last road trip, we tried to balance the lines out, and hope for a little depth of scoring. It was something we wanted to take a look at today. Tomorrow is going to be more a special teams day, but it is something we’d like to try.
Cody Eakin and Alex Chiasson have been fixtures on the second unit this season for the Stars, but the versatility that the new-look second line gives Dallas is evident. Vernon Fiddler, Rich Peverley and Ray Whitney are all very experienced players that can handle just about any situation.
Switching Chiasson and Eakin down to the third unit could also open up more scoring chances despite less ice time. Chiasson in particular is a player worth keeping an eye on in this setup. He’s thrived as a top-six forward, so going up against some more mild competition could be good for the youngster.
Being able to roll out the likes of Shawn Horcoff and Erik Cole on a fourth line speaks volumes for the Stars and their solid forward depth, but Cole hasn’t been particularly good this season. Horcoff has been though, and perhaps slotting him into a set with Cole can get the big forward going.