The Dallas Stars could be down a defenseman for Friday's game against the New York Islanders. Marc Methot did not practice for a second straight day because of a lower-body injury, and he could miss the final tilt of the Stars' three-game homestand.
"Methot didn't skate again today, so he is probably going to miss the game on Friday," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock. "That's not 100 percent yet, but there's a chance he could miss."
Hitchcock said Methot is listed as day-to-day and did not expect the injury to be long-term.
As for the team's three injured forwards, Brett Ritchie (upper body) and Tyler Pitlick (upper body) took part in Thursday's practice wearing red no-contact jerseys. Radek Faksa (lower body) skated on his own before practice.
Video: Gemel is ready to step up
Hitchcock said all three forwards will participate in Friday's morning skate. Ritchie appears to be the closest to returning, but it's not clear if any will be ready to play Friday. That could mean a call-up from the AHL.
"I think a call-up is a possibility because you don't want to put yourself in a position where you are bringing guys out of rehab with one skate," said Hitchcock. "We'll talk about it, but I don't think any of those guys are 100 percent ready yet. With one more skate, they might be. We'll evaluate that a little bit later, but I think there is the possibility of a call-up."
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's session due to illness. Lehtonen was scheduled to start Friday's game against the Islanders, but Hitchcock said Ben Bishop will get the start now.
"One practice is not enough (for Lehtonen)," Hitchcock said. "That's too bad because that is the schedule we were going to work on but having only one skate in I don't think is fair. He felt OK today, and we've got lots of games next week, so he'll get in one or two of those."
Looking for one-two punch at center
Hitchcock rolled out the same lines in practice Thursday that he used on Wednesday. Those lines had Jamie Benn at center with Gemel Smith and Alexander Radulov on his wings. Tyler Seguin centered a line with Mattias Janmark and Devin Shore.
On the decision to split up the top line of Benn, Seguin, and Radulov and move Benn to center, Hitchcock said he is hoping for more pop down the middle.
"I like the one-two punch. We'll see if we can make it productive, but I really do like the one-two punch," Hitchcock said. "I thought Benn's line was excellent yesterday and Seguin's line was excellent today. It looks like we've got real potential here. I like what I see, and anytime you have size and speed through the middle of the ice it's a good thing. That's what we've got. It seems like all the good teams have a good one-two punch right now. I think that is what we want to try to establish."
'Great opportunity' for Smith
The line juggling will provide an opportunity for some of the Stars younger forwards including Gemel Smith.
Smith, who has been playing in the bottom six, will now get some time in the top six on a line with Benn and Radulov.
"It's been good (practicing with them). They both play at a high tempo," Smith said. "They are both great talents, and it's definitely exciting and a great opportunity for me."
Smith said he expects nothing to change with his game even though he is moving up the lineup and will get a more high-profile role.
"It's the same way. Just use my speed," Smith said. "I know how good they are. I just get to the net, let them do their things and when I have a play don't be afraid to make a play. It's the same stuff. I'll probably play against better players, so it's a mental thing. I just have to be ready for whoever they throw at us."
Hitchcock wants Smith to be Smith and not fall into the trap that many young players do when playing with veterans.
"Hunt pucks and be strong on the pucks, be diligent in going into all the hard areas," Hitchcock said. "Sometimes when you get a young player playing with any veteran player, they defer. They move the puck, they don't want to shoot on a two-on-one, they want to pass off. We just want him to do what has allowed us to continue to play him on a daily basis. Jamie and Radulov have talked to him. He's excited. I think any player would look at this as an unreal opportunity, as do [Devin] Shore and [Mattias] Janmark (playing with Tyler Seguin). We hope they take advantage of it."
Here's how the Stars lined up in Thursday's practice.
Gemel Smith - Jamie Benn - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie/Tyler Pitlick
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns
Not practicing: Marc Methot (lower body), Radek Faksa (lower body)
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.