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In search of offense, Stars move Chiasson to top line

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- Looking for a way to enliven his team's offense, Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff will use rookie right wing Alex Chiasson on the top line alongside center Tyler Seguin and left wing Jamie Benn on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Chiasson has 12 goals and 29 points in 65 games, but two of those goals have come in the past four games.

"He competes, he drives to the net hard, he's standing in front," Seguin said of Chiasson. "Playing against teams like Philly, you need to be competing, you need to be battling, you need to be getting into the dirty areas, and Chiasson does that."

It won't be the first time Ruff has put Chiasson with Seguin and Benn.

"We've tried a couple times throughout the year," Chiasson said, "and to be honest it hasn't worked really well. Let's hope that [Thursday] maybe something changes."

The Stars would like to see anyone join Seguin and Benn on the score sheet. In the past six games they have scored 10 of the Stars' 19 goals. Only Chiasson (two), Antoine Roussel (two) and Erik Cole (two) have scored more than one in that span.

"I think depth of scoring is important," Ruff said. "We've struggled offensively just for the fact that we haven't had that secondary scoring. For a period of time our secondary scoring was good, now it's tailed off. We had Cody Eakin on two or three great chances [in a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday] and Roussel in on a breakaway. When you don't convert on those it hurts the team."

The dropoff in production after Seguin and Benn is significant. Seguin and Benn lead Dallas with 31 and 27 goals, respectively, but the Stars have one other player with more than 15; Seguin and Benn each has at least 64 points, but no one else has more than 35.

Cole, a five-time 20-goal scorer, knows how important it is to have someone beyond the top two lines contribute offensively.

"I definitely feel like I can help in that regard and contribute offensively," he said. "It would be nice to have that. I think that when we've been real successful we've had some secondary scoring. … It's important for us to be able to find scoring in other areas. If we do that it'll lead to success. But we definitely need to find a way to take some of the pressure off our top guys."

Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice during the morning skate, and it would make sense based on career numbers that he starts against the Flyers. In 20 games against Philadelphia Thomas is 14-4-2 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. Kari Lehtonen is 0-10-2 with a 3.50 GAA and .891 save percentage in 12 games against the Flyers.

Philadelphia will go with Steve Mason in net after starting Ray Emery in their 3-2 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

Regardless of who has been in goal for the Flyers, they have a high level of confidence that might have been absent in past seasons.

"We have a lot of confidence in Mason and Ray," defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "Both guys are good goalies and we knew that at the beginning of the year. … I think if you want to be successful there's only one way to do it. You have to play the same way no matter who's in net. And we're lucky that we've got two guys back there that when we have breakdowns or things that go wrong, they're back there helping us out."

Thursday will be Mason's turn to help the Flyers as they attempt to put some distance between themselves and their nearest pursuers for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot. They enter play second in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the idle New York Rangers. The Columbus Blue Jackets, who are three points back, play at the Montreal Canadiens.

Things are a bit more desperate for the Stars, who are two points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the final Western Conference wild-card spot. The Coyotes are home for the Florida Panthers on Thursday, and a win by the Stars and a regulation loss by the Coyotes would tie the teams with 77 points, but the Stars would move back into a playoff spot based on Dallas having played one fewer game.

"Every point and every period is crucial to us right now," Seguin said. "You definitely know all the time where we are. But at this point … every game feels like a playoff game."

Here are the lineups the Stars and Flyers likely will use Thursday:


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alex Chiasson

Erik Cole - Cody Eakin - Colton Sceviour

Antoine Roussel - Vernon Fiddler - Ryan Garbutt

Ray Whitney - Chris Mueller - Valeri Nichushkin

Trevor Daley - Alex Goligoski

Brenden Dillon - Jordie Benn

Kevin Connauton - Sergei Gonchar

Tim Thomas

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Aaron Rome

Injured: Rich Peverley (heart), Shawn Horcoff (upper body)


Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Vincent Lecavalier - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Steve Downie

Zac Rinaldo - Michael Raffl - Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn

Mark Streit - Nicklas Grossmann

Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Jay Rosehill, Hal Gill, Erik Gustafsson


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