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Stars building lines by starting with pairs before camp

'Everything up front is on twosomes, not threesomes,' Hitchcock says

by Sean Shapiro / Correspondent

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Dallas Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said he's looking at their forward lines as groups of two instead of three.

"Everything up front is on twosomes, not threesomes," Hitchcock said Saturday. "I don't even have a clue linewise. But I like some twosomes. I like [Tyler] Seguin and [Jamie] Benn playing together, I like [Radek] Faksa and [Martin] Hanzal playing together. I like [Mattias] Janmark and [Jason] Spezza together. I like the twosomes and then see what threesomes fit."

Hitchcock, who was hired April 13, said he doesn't have a line chart drawn up yet, with training camp to open on Friday. But a couple of combinations have caught his attention, and he discussed them while watching the prospects tournament here. 
With his potential alignments, a natural center like Spezza or Faksa could play wing. Hitchcock said that's not much of a concern. 

"I think that position of center is really overrated," he said. "Centers end up playing half the time on the wing, and I think all that stuff is overrated. It's all about chemistry offensively and defensively."

Benn and Seguin have played together for the majority of their time together in Dallas, which began when Seguin arrived prior to the 2013-14 season. Janmark and Spezza spent most of two seasons ago on the same line. Hanzal and Faksa were Team Czech Republic teammates at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 prior to last season.

Video: 31 in 31: Dallas Stars 2017-18 season preview

"They had some good chemistry from what I saw in the World Cup," Hitchcock said. "That's why I'd like to see Hanzal and Faksa together; let's see if they can be that difficult group to play against."

Hitchcock also said he wants to create more consistency among the Stars defensemen. They have nine with NHL experience heading to training camp. 

"It's what six are going to start the season and who looks like they're going be good pairs. Who is going to be able to work with who?" Hitchcock said. "I'm really going to rely on (assistant coach) Rick Wilson for his judgement, but at the end of the day, we want to pick six guys that will build good chemistry, and the guys behind it kind of have to wait their turn."

Dallas has three right-handed defensemen -- John Klingberg, Julius Honka and Stephen Johns -- who like to skate with the puck. The left side will be more veteran with Dan Hamhuis and Marc Methot. 

"It looks like on paper right now that our left side will be our defensive side, while the other group looks like it may be able to move the puck and jump into the play a little bit," Hitchcock said. "We know [Esa] Lindell and Klingberg were a good pair last year, but Methot opens up options." 

Hitchcock and the coaching staff are flying to Dallas on Sunday, and he said he plans to have some in-depth conversations with a couple of players who have been taking part in informal skates.

"Their energy and enthusiasm to build a team, that's what impressed me," Hitchcock said. "The players that are coming back, they've talked about making amends for last year (when the Stars did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs). They talk about wanting to build something special, and they talk about putting in the work. Now we get to start doing it."

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