NASHVILLE – Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff will hold rookie right wing Valeri Nichushkin out for a second straight game Monday when the team visits the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Nichushkin, the 10th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, will return to the lineup Tuesday when the Stars host the Minnesota Wild, Ruff said.
With nine goals and 13 assists, Nichushkin is 10th among NHL rookies in points and sixth on the Stars. He has averaged 15:11 of time on ice per game in 46 games, but Ruff cut back on that when Nichushkin expressed to the coach that he had become fatigued.
"I think because of where his energy level has been I'm not going to play him in back-to-back games," Ruff said. "He'll go back in tomorrow."
Nichushkin went without a point in his five previous games before he was scratched Saturday at Minnesota. In the past four, he has not played more than 12:48 and logged only 9:56 on Jan. 12 against the New York Islanders.
The rookie's personal tailspin has coincided with the Stars' struggles. Dallas is 1-7-1 in its past nine and is fading from contention for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Ruff speculated that Nichushkin may have exhausted himself trying to prove himself and earn a spot on Russia's Olympic team. Nichushkin has not earned a point since the Russian team was announced.
"Well, he was playing really well and I think maybe the schedule caught up to him," Ruff said. "I just know in talking to him he talked about how tired he was, and not many players will admit to being no legs and fatigued and I think some of it is mental fatigue because he pushed hard and I think some of it is the Olympic part where he was pushing hard. Some of it is the NHL schedule, which is real demanding and it's a physical type of grind, just not a skating grind.
"So he's got a little bit of everything. This is just all part of his progression."
Rich Peverley has taken Nichushkin's spot on the Stars' top line, centered by Tyler Seguin. However, it seems Ruff might play Jamie Benn on the Stars' second line to keep opponents from playing their top shut-down defense pair against Dallas' two most productive offensive players.
Here are the projected lineups for the Predators and Stars:
Antoine Roussel – Tyler Seguin – Rich Peverley
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Alex Chiasson
Erik Cole – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Dustin Jeffrey – Shawn Horcoff – Ray Whitney
Alex Goligoski – Brenden Dillon
Kevin Connauton – Trevor Daley
Aaron Rome – Sergei Gonchar
Scratched: Jordie Benn, Valeri Nichushkin
Injured: Stephane Robidas (leg)
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – Patric Hornqvist
Nick Spaling – David Legwand – Craig Smith
Rich Clune – Paul Gaustad – Viktor Stalberg
Eric Nystrom – Matt Cullen – Gabriel Bourque
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Ryan Ellis – Kevin Klein/Victor Bartley
Seth Jones – Mattias Ekholm
Scratched: Kevin Klein/Victor Bartley.
Injured: Pekka Rinne (hip)