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Hitchcock juggles defense as Stars prepare for Colorado

Marc Methot and John Klingberg are expected to play together on Saturday

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

There was some juggling of the defense pairs at Dallas Stars practice in Frisco on Friday. Most notable was Marc Methot moving onto the top pair with John Klingberg. Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said he expects to go with that pair when the Stars take on the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at American Airlines Center.

"That's the switch we'll make," Hitchcock said.

Many people thought Methot and Klingberg would be a pair to start the season. They played together some in training camp but Klingberg has played the first four games with Esa Lindell, and Methot has played with both Jamie Oleksiak and Stephen Johns. Now, Hitchcock sees a reason to put Methot with Klingberg.  

"I think Klinger is getting targeted and we are looking for a more sturdy, veteran presence that's going to have to communicate with him and talk him through some of the stuff," Hitchcock said. "I don't mean that he is getting run over. They are going after him to try to hem him in, and we can help him if we can communicate to help him exit a little cleaner. They worked together in training camp, and Methot was a good voice for him."

The other defense pairs were: Esa Lindell-Julius Honka: Dan Hamhuis-Stephen Johns; Jamie Oleksiak-Greg Pateryn.

Video: DET@DAL: Klingberg tallies off post from long range

Hitchcock indicated those other pairs weren't set in stone. The Stars still have to determine the status of Hamhuis who has missed the past two games with a sore groin. Hamhuis went through a full practice Friday and appears on the verge of returning to the lineup.

"It's good to be back. It's never fun being out," Hamhuis said. "I just needed a couple of days for things to settle down and I am just fortunate that it came back quickly."

Hitchcock said Hamhuis' status for Saturday's game would be determined after the morning skate.

"We've got to go through the night, through tomorrow's skate to make sure it Is 100 percent, and if it is, then we'll put him in," Hitchcock said.

As to who comes out of the lineup, if Hamhuis plays Saturday, Hitchcock said: "It could be anybody. It could be Oleksiak. It could be anybody."

Hitchcock also did some juggling of his forward lines as well. He moved Mattias Janmark back onto a line with Jason Spezza and Brett Ritchie. Remi Elie moved to the line with Martin Hanzal and Devin Shore.

Quotable: Searching for five-on-five goals

The power play has been productive for the Stars this season scoring once in each of the first four games. Getting goals during five-on-five play has been another story. The Stars have scored just three five-on-five goals through the first four games, and they need more. It was a topic of discussion Friday in Frisco and here are a couple of quotes.

Center Jason Spezza: "Scoring goals in this league you have to learn to have a little composure in front of the net. We're a little more rushed right now because we are trying to do everything so hard and so right. I think our intentions are in the right place, but our execution isn't. I think the goals will come, but they have to come within the hard brand of hockey we want to play, and that's what we are trying to do right now.

"From the dots down, you still have to have the composure of an offensive player but from the dots all the way back to your end, you have to have Hitch's workmanlike mentality of being hard on pucks, and that's where we have to be better at. We're working hard, we're getting lots of pucks on net and scoring chances, but we are missing them because it takes a little bit of composure to score around the net."

Coach Ken Hitchcock: "What I think we need to work on his staying on the hunt longer. Those are the chances we are not getting. We are getting a lot of original chances. We are getting a lot of bang plays at the net. But the hunt plays where you check the puck back again and again; we need to be better in that area. Those are the garbage goals because the other team is flailing out of position. There's a disposition that comes over your hockey club, and we are not there yet."

Practice Lineup

Jamie Benn (maintenance) did not practice Friday. Hitchcock said Benn is fine and he will play Saturday. Gemel Smith took Benn's place on the top line in Friday's practice.

Gemel Smith - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Devin Shore
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick

Marc Methot - John Klingberg
Esa Lindell - Julius Honka
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns
Jamie Oleksiak - Greg Pateryn

Ben Bishop
Kari Lehtonen

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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