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Stars plan to split up top line on road against Devils

by Dan Rosen

STARS (3-1-2) at DEVILS (3-2-1)


NEWARK, N.J. -- Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn did line rushes together Friday morning at Prudential Center, but Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said it's unlikely he will start the game against the New Jersey Devils with his three star forwards on the same line despite their success during the past seven periods.

Ruff is looking for more balance in his top two forward lines because the Stars are on the road and do not have the last change. Ruff, though, said he will go back to the Benn-Spezza-Seguin line during the game.

"It's a great option to have," Ruff said.

Spezza, Seguin and Benn have combined for six goals and 12 assists since they were put together on the same line at the start of the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 16, when they combined for two goals in the final three minutes to help Dallas to a 3-2 win.

They have been on the ice for eight of Dallas' past 13 goals, including six at even strength. The Stars are 2-0-1 since Ruff put them together, with wins against the Penguins and Vancouver Canucks and an overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

"You may only see it for a couple of shifts [Friday], but we're going to try to take advantage of it when we can," Benn said.

Benn also said the Stars' overall depth is greater when he, Spezza and Seguin are split between the top two lines. It's likely Seguin will return to center to play with Benn and Colton Sceviour, with Spezza bumping down to play between Ales Hemsky and Erik Cole on the second line.

When Ruff goes back to the big line, Benn said the transition will be easy because they have played together for the past two-plus games.

"We're familiar with each other," he said. "When we get the chance to play with each other we've got to take advantage of it. When we're not playing together I think it makes our team have a lot more depth."

But when they play together it does strike fear into the opposition.

In fact, when asked for ways to counter or shut down the Benn-Spezza-Seguin line, Devils coach Peter DeBoer said joking, "I don't know, got any ideas?"

DeBoer tried to compare it to when the Pittsburgh Penguins use Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on the same line, but he could only take that comparison so far.

"We've dealt with those type of players before -- I'm not sure about three of them on a line like that, that's definitely a challenge," he said. "I think our group typically rises to the occasion and takes a lot of pride in trying to shut down people like that. That's what we've gotta do."

Seguin is the biggest beneficiary when Ruff opts to go with the big line. He moves from center to right wing, where he played for three seasons while with the Boston Bruins. Seguin has two goals and five assists on the right wing this season.

"I can't believe how much less tired I find myself from playing on the wing," Seguin said. "You're not competing as much as a centerman in your own zone. I find myself being able to sneak behind their defenders a little bit. It's a more offensive position for myself, but there might be times, especially on the road, where I will see myself at center. I'm ready for whatever."

The Devils have to be ready to see the Benn-Spezza-Seguin line at some point Friday. The Penguins, Flyers and Canucks couldn't come up with an answer for it.

"It's a great line, especially when you're down a goal," Seguin said. "Even if we need to defend a goal I think we do a good job together. It's something that is a work in progress, but it's definitely comfortable right now."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Colton Sceviour

Erik Cole - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Patrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Brenden Dillon

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Curtis McKenzie, Kevin Connauton

Injured: Sergei Gonchar (lower body), Valeri Nichushkin (lower body), Patrik Nemeth (arm laceration)


Dainius Zubrus - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Mike Cammalleri - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner

Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Stephen Gionta

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill

Cory Schneider

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Adam Larsson

Injured: Martin Havlat (face), Jordin Tootoo (foot)

Status report: Jokipakka is making his NHL debut. Ruff said he was the Stars best young defensemen in training camp. He played in the American Hockey League last season and won the Calder Cup with the Texas Stars. … Josefson is expected to make his season debut against the Stars because New Jersey placed Tootoo on injured reserve Friday. … Ruutu returns to New Jersey's lineup after he was a healthy scratch Tuesday against the New York Rangers because Havlat is unable to play. Havlat sustained facial injuries requiring 55 stitches in a game against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 16. He played against the Rangers, but didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. DeBoer said he is dealing with injuries unrelated to his face, but he would not divulge details. … Gelinas also returns after sitting out in favor of Larsson on Tuesday. DeBoer said the only reason he made the change is because "we're putting the best lineup on the ice as we can to win [Friday night]."

Who's hot: Seguin has all 10 of his points this season in the past four games. Spezza has one goal and six assists in the past three games. Benn has a goal in four straight games. Cole has three goals in the past two games, including two against the Canucks this past Tuesday.

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