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Practice journal: Hitchcock getting lines in order as Stars hit road

Bishop expected to start in goal next two games, Lehtonen scheduled to play Friday in Calgary

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Stars practiced for about an hour Monday morning in Frisco as they prepared to hit the road for their first extended trip of the season. It will be five games over the course of 10 days against Colorado, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.

The Stars (5-3-0) are on a roll as they embark on the trip. They have won four straight games and five of their past six.

"This is going to be a real test for us," said defenseman John Klingberg. "With Colorado first, it's the division, so it's going to be huge for us to take two points and keep some momentum there. This is our first normal road trip. We've just had one game trips on the road before, so it's going to be important. We want to bring that momentum back home."

Monday's practice lines looked the way they did towards the end of Saturday's 4-3 win over Carolina at American Airlines Center. Coach Ken Hitchcock made some adjustments during the game and stuck with them on Monday.

Among the moves was playing Martin Hanzal and Jason Spezza together with Hanzal at center, Spezza on the right wing and Remi Elie on the left wing. Hitchcock liked what that line did in Saturday's game.

"You got two guys that win faceoffs, so they start with the puck all the time. That's a big key," Hitchcock said. "When you've got a big-bodied line that starts with the puck it's hard to defend. They had a lot of zone time last game, and then you've got a hunter like Elie that goes and gets the puck and separates people from the puck, so he gives them space to work. That's a good line."

Video: Morning Skate: Hitchcock

Hitchcock also said he wants to get more ice time for the line of Antoine Roussel, Radek Faksa, and Tyler Pitlick. That trio, which has been together for a while now, has been productive and scored twice in Saturday's win.

"I have to play the Faksa line more, especially on the road," Hitchcock said. "They've got a strong dynamic, they're scoring goals. They've got four goals between them, and that's pretty good for a checking line, so I've got to get them out on the ice a little bit."

The one line Hitchcock is looking to get going is a line that is expected to be Devin Shore, Mattias Janmark, and Brett Ritchie. Gemel Smith skated on that line Monday in place of Ritchie, who had a maintenance day.

"We've got to come up with a plan for the Janmark line, which way do we want to play them, how do we want to play them and how do we see them having success. That's the line we want to dig into and help those guys," Hitchcock said. "It's more attitude. We've got to get them to understand how you create in this league. We are going to help them along there."

The top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov has been the one line that Hitchcock has kept together since game one.

On defense, no changes. The pairs were the same as last game: Marc Methot-Klingberg; Dan Hamhuis-Stephen Johns; Esa Lindell-Julius Honka. Jamie Oleksiak and Greg Pateryn skated as the fourth pair.

 

Goaltending plan

Hitchcock said his goaltending plan has Kari Lehtonen getting his next start Friday in Calgary when the Stars will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back. That means Ben Bishop is the scheduled starter Tuesday when the Stars play at Colorado and then again Thursday at Edmonton.

 

Monday's practice lineup

Here's Monday's practice lineup. Brett Ritchie (maintenance) did not practice but is expected to play Tuesday in Denver.

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

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

Ben Bishop
Kari Lehtonen

Not skating: Brett Ritchie (maintenance)

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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