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Stars coach calls new lineup options 'tremendous'

NHL.com @NHL

Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff is more than happy to deal with the lineup decisions he has to make after some high-profile offseason acquisitions.

Ruff has many options with forward Patrick Sharp, defenseman Johnny Oduya, and goaltender Antti Niemi on board. The fact that each is a Stanley Cup champion should help.

"It's really important for us to take that next step. These guys have been winners and know how to win. They should help us get there," Ruff told the Stars website Friday. "Ownership has really stepped up and said we can make this team better. … It's been tremendous."

Ruff said he could use Sharp, acquired in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks, at either wing with his right-handed shot.

"In the top six, he could easily play with [Jamie] Benn and [Tyler] Seguin," Ruff said. "We could leave [Patrick] Eaves up top and [Sharp] could play with [Jason] Spezza. I think there is an opportunity to play with [Cody] Eakin.

"I think the flexibility among our top two [lines] gives us a lot of good options. It's made us deeper; it's made us better. He's a real nice piece. As a team, we didn't need more offense, but his veteran presence and offense is really going to help."

Oduya, a former Blackhawks player signed as a free agent, essentially is the top-four replacement for Trevor Daley, who was sent to Chicago along with forward Ryan Garbutt in the trade for Sharp.

"I think [John] Klingberg and [Alex] Goligoski played really well together. I'd like to try [Oduya] with [Jason] Demers right off the bat," Ruff said. "He gives us another left-right combo.

"I think [training] camp and preseason will sort things out. There might be an opportunity to play him with Klingberg. I think we can look at all the different options."

Niemi, a Cup winner with the Blackhawks in 2010, was traded by the San Jose Sharks then signed with the Stars. He will compete for time in goal with Kari Lehtonen.

"That part will sort itself out," Ruff said. "If you're playing well, both guys will play. If one guy gets on a little bit of a run, he will take the ball for a while. We would hope as a team that we could get both guys playing really well. I think if you could keep both guys fresh and keep both guys playing that would be a dynamite recipe to have a heck of a year."

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