It appears there will be a couple of lineup changes when the Dallas Stars take on the Arizona Coyotes Thursday night at American Airlines Center.
One of those changes will come on the blue line, where Jyrki Jokipakka will draw into the lineup. The Stars called up Jokipakka from the AHL after Columbus claimed Kevin Connauton off waivers Tuesday. Jokipakka has played three games with Dallas this season, averaging 13:21 of ice time.
“He’s going to play tomorrow,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I said coming out of training camp he was probably the guy that improved the most last year and pushed the most through training camp. In the preseason games he was a real good defender and the games he’s played so far this year I thought he had played well for us.”
There’s no word on who will come out to make room for Jokipakka.
Patrick Eaves, who has missed the last three games with a lower body injury, practiced Wednesday and will be available for Thursday’s game. Eaves skated on a line with Curtis McKenzie and Vernon Fiddler in Wednesday’s practice.
“He’s done a good job for us. He’s done all the right things,” Ruff said. “He plays good hockey.”
Ryan Garbutt, who missed Tuesday’s game due to injury, did not practice Wednesday and is going to miss a few more games.
“It looks around a week,” Ruff said. “He’s got an upper body (injury). He went for further tests.”
Ruff tweaked his lines some in Wednesday’s practice. He stayed with the same top line used in Tuesday’s game, which had Cody Eakin centering Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. But he moved Antoine Roussel to the second line with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky.
“I was looking for something to get Jamie back on track. I think that early goal (by Benn) helped. Those three guys (Seguin, Benn, Eakin) scored all four goals,” Ruff said. “The lines, there was a little bit of a hit and miss for me. I still don’t think I have the right guy with the Spezza-Hemsky connection. That might be maybe a Roussel, maybe Eakin has to go there and maybe Eaves goes back with Seguin and Benn. I am going to continue to tweak things until it becomes right.”
While the Ruff looks for right line combinations, he said his main emphasis right now is the on the defensive side of the game. The Stars have allowed six goals in consecutive games and have surrendered four or more in six of the last 12 games. They are allowing 3.47 goals per game and rank 29th in the league.
“The message to the team is better defensively. That’s the message to the team. You won’t win games by giving up five, six goals,” Ruff said. “I told the team yesterday and today, our turnaround last season was we paid attention to making sure it was very frustrating for the other team. I don’t see us tracking as hard. I still see us leaning on the offensive side of things. When it’s a 50-50 puck, we are on the wrong side of it. That’s the area I am working real hard on.”
Quotable: Lindy Ruff
“The message is we’ve got to do more. You’ve got stay positive. If we beat them up, I think it gets worse. That history with me is the team usually gets afraid to play.”
Here’s how the Stars lined up in Wednesday’s practice.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Curtis McKenzie – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Erik Cole – Shawn Horcoff – Travis Moen/Colton Sceviour
(Defense pairs were mixed)
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Brenden Dillon – John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak – Jordie Benn- Jyrki Jokipakka
This story was not subject to the 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.