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Stars weighing changes ahead of tilt with Canadiens

Radulov could return after missing four games due to injury, but the top line might be split up

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

MONTREAL -- Putting together the Stars' lineup continues to be something like assembling a jigsaw puzzle on the space shuttle.

The pieces are floating around, which sort of makes them hard to fit.

Alexander Radulov practiced on Monday and could return Tuesday from missing four games with a lower-body injury when the Stars play at the Canadiens. Then again, he might not.

"It's to be decided," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said Monday when asked if Radulov might play his first game since Oct. 16. "It's the best it's been, so I'm hoping that he's going to be ready. I'm sure playing in Montreal will be nice for him, too."

Radulov played a season with the Canadiens before signing as a free agent with the Stars in 2017, so his appearance will be watched closely by fans and the media in Montreal. His absence also coincides with a scoring slump for Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, so bringing Radulov back into the lineup could bring needed energy to the top line.

Radulov had four goals and six assists for 10 points in the first five games and then got hurt in Game 6. Seguin (three goals, eight assists) and Benn (four goals, four assists) were on a roll with Radulov, but have combined for just one assist in the past six games. So that has Montgomery thinking about splitting up the top scoring duo.

"We have a large enough sample size here that they're not getting enough done," Montgomery said. "So maybe splitting them up might rejuvenate them and also give some life to our team on a couple of lines."

The coach had Benn with Jason Spezza and either Justin Dowling or Mattias Janmark during practice. He had Seguin with Radulov and either Tyler Pilick or Valeri Nichushkin. He then had Brett Ritchie (who missed Sunday's 4-2 loss in Detroit with an upper-body injury) on a line with Jason Dickinson and Devin Shore, and had Radek Faksa on a line with Gemel Smith and Blake Comeau.

It was another full-line shuffle on the road, where the Stars have been outscored 11-3 while going 0-3-0.

Video: Monty says Stars need to become an "everyday" team

Benn said the top scorers have to help lead the team out of this slump.

"We've just got to play better on the road, myself in particular leading the way," Benn said following Sunday's 4-2 loss to slumping Detroit. "It's not good enough. You're not going to win these games if your best players aren't your best players. It's pretty simple."

The potential return of Radulov and Ritchie means the coach has to make some scratches. Gemel Smith has played in just three of 10 games for the Stars this season, but he scored a goal and was one of the team's best players Sunday, so the guess is he will stay in.

Could Justin Dowling and Valeri Nichushkin be candidates to come out of the lineup? We'll see on Tuesday. Whatever happens, Montgomery said the team needs more effort.

"We didn't finish checks, and as a coach and our coaching staff, we're talking about 'How do we get better?' " Montgomery said of the plan for practice. "We were so bad in every area last night. Give Detroit credit, some of that was them. They put us into bad situations, but we didn't fight through anything.

"That was the disappointing part, was the effort."

So in addition to the line shuffling, the Stars also ran a hard, spirited workout.

"I think if we would have practiced like we did today on Saturday, which I was not happy with our practice, we would have had a better chance at a positive outcome last night," Montgomery said of the relationship between practice and road performance. "But we did the right thing today. The thing I'm not happy about is we're not an everyday team right now. Sometimes, we practice well. Sometimes, we don't.

"That's probably why we haven't been able to win three games in a row yet."


Carrick held off ice, Methot expected back

Defenseman Connor Carrick did not practice Monday after sustaining a lower body injury and trying to play through it Sunday.

"It's a maintenance day, but he's pretty sore so I would think he's doubtful for tomorrow night," Montgomery said.

Marc Methot, who was held out of the past two games with a lower-body injury, is expected to jump back into the lineup. Methot practiced beside Miro Heiskanen on Monday, while Julius Honka and Roman Polak were also paired up.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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