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In order for Stars to beat 'big boys,' Hitchcock seeks more participants

The Stars coach juggles his lines in practice as he tries to get players on track

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

After taking Tuesday off, the Dallas Stars were back on the ice Wednesday in Frisco and their forward lines had a different look. A much different look.

Coach Ken Hitchcock broke up his top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov. Benn was centering a line with Gemel Smith on the left wing and Radulov on the right, and Seguin centered a line with Mattias Janmark and Devin Shore on the wings. Another line had Martin Hanzal centering Remi Elie and Jason Spezza.

Hitchcock was sticking to his promise after Monday's 4-1 loss to Winnipeg to find a way to jumpstart more of his players to make the Stars more competitive against top teams.

"We're working hard. We're competing at a very high level, but we do need more participation," Hitchcock said. "We just feel right now that we are playing at a high level and not being able to beat the big boys. And in order to beat the big boys, I feel like if we get more people participating it will give us a better opportunity."

Benn, Seguin, Radulov, and defenseman John Klingberg have been pulling a lot of the offensive weight for the Stars through the first 15 games. Benn, Seguin, and Radulov have scored 21 of the team's 42 goals (50 percent). Those three forwards -- along with Klingberg -- have recorded 58 of the team's 113 points (51.2 percent).

Video: Klingberg on the team's message at practice

And that has Hitchcock looking to get more people involved. Take away Benn, Seguin, and Radulov and the rest of the Stars forwards have combined for 12 goals, and eight of those have been scored by Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, and Tyler Pitlick.

"There are two ways you can do it: you can sit and bark and ask for more participation; or you can include them, especially the younger guys, in more of the group. We've opted to include them more in the group," Hitchcock said.

"I don't want to say we've spread it out, but we've put younger players in more significant positions, and we'll see if they can excel. A lot of other teams are doing this and are having some success."

Hitchcock said he saw some positives in Wednesday's practice and will give the changes a second look on Thursday as he tries to find a way to get more participants heading into Friday's game.

"We took the first step at practice, and I was pleasantly surprised and enthused by what I saw," he said. "We'll carry it into another practice, and we'll see how it sorts out tomorrow."

 

Injury updates

Forwards Radek Faksa (lower body), Tyler Pitlick (upper body), and Brett Ritchie (upper body) all skated before Wednesday's practice. All are day to day.

"I can't really give you dates on those guys," Hitchcock said. "We're not sure if any we'll join us for practice tomorrow. They are all day to day, but I just can't tell you the day they are going to join us."

Hitchcock said for one of those players to play on Friday, they'll need to practice on Thursday.

"If they aren't practicing [Thursday], you can pretty much go to the bank they aren't playing Friday," Hitchcock said. "If somebody is in tomorrow's practice, there is a good chance they'll play."

Goaltender Kari Lehtonen did not practice Wednesday due to illness. He is expected to practice Thursday. The plan was for Lehtonen to play Friday against the Islanders but that is up in the air now due to the illness.

Defenseman Marc Methot didn't practice Wednesday. Hitchcock said it was a maintenance day for Methot and the Stars were hopeful Methot would practice Thursday.

 

Practice Lineup

Here's how the Stars lineup up in practice.

Gemel Smith - Jamie Benn - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Jason Spezza
Antoine Roussel - Jason Dickinson

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn

Ben Bishop

Not practicing: Kari Lehtonen (illness), Marc Methot (maintenance), Radek Faksa (lower body), Tyler Pitlick (upper body), Brett Ritchie (upper 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.

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