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Return of Faksa, Perry could force Stars to shuffle lineup

Who comes out? That will be a tricky question for Dallas, which has won seven of its past eight games

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The Stars are coming off a huge win in Colorado Tuesday, have won seven of their past eight games, and probably will still make some significant lineup changes for Thursday's home contest against the Buffalo Sabres.

Welcome to the 2019-20 season.

Not unlike their ability to forge comeback wins, there is both good and bad in Dallas' adaptability. No, it's not exactly how you would want to draw it up. Yes, it can be crucial to keeping this team in a playoff spot.

Corey Perry has finished his five-game suspension, given for elbowing Nashville's Ryan Ellis in the head at the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. He is expected to jump back into the lineup. Radek Faksa missed a game with an upper-body injury Tuesday, but there also is a possibility that he returns to play.

So who comes out of the lineup? Well, that's a tricky question, especially when the Stars had a day off Wednesday.

Video: DAL@COL: Bowness discusses Stars' comeback, OT win

Joel Kiviranta does not require waivers, so he could actually be sent to the AHL and continue his play down there. However, the 23-year-old rookie winger has gotten progressively better in his first five NHL games and on Tuesday played 12:51 and recorded eight hits. Interim coach Rick Bowness was playing Kiviranta late in a 2-2 game, just as he had done the previous game when the Stars' trailed San Jose 2-1 in the third period.

That's an obvious sign of respect and trust from a coach.

"He's strong on the boards, he's confident on the boards," Bowness said. "He made plays, he doesn't get the puck and throw it away and panic with it. He hangs on to it and he battles it out. He's been very impressive. He's one of our best forwards on the boards right now getting pucks out and good decisions with it."

But if Kiviranta has earned a spot in the lineup, who comes out? Justin Dowling played his first game in the past eight and logged 10:51 Tuesday. He was good, but that might not be enough right now. Denis Gurianov was given a seat on the bench for the final 10 minutes of the Colorado game, and Bowness said he didn't think the rookie winger was playing well.

"It wasn't his best game. He has to be better, and he knows that," Bowness said. "He's a young player. They're not going to be on their A-game every night, and these are tough games for them to learn."

Video: DAL@TBL: Faksa wires home wrister from the slot

That said, Gurianov scored a goal and is tied for third on the team with 11 on the season. He has scored five of those goals in the past 10 games, so would it benefit the Stars to take him out of the lineup?

That is part of the good and bad with this team.

It's great that players can step up when there are injuries. Taylor Fedun, for example, played in the four games that John Klingberg missed when he was out with a knee injury, and the Stars went 3-1-0 in those game. However, Fedun then has to deal with being a healthy scratch when the team is completely healthy, and that can be a challenge for both the player and the coach.

Bowness said it's hard to sit players when they are playing well, but that he is thankful for the professional attitude of both Fedun and Dowling. He said both are always ready to jump in at a moment's notice.

"You just deal with it," Bowness said. "We've had Dowling with us all year. Fedun's been here all year, and if there's injuries, we know they're both ready to step in and play. They work very hard in practice and they keep themselves ready to go. That's part of the game, injuries, suspensions."

Video: COL@DAL: Perry banks puck in off Grubauer

Also in play is the fact defenseman Stephen Johns, who is on IR and has missed a year and a half of NHL play with post-traumatic headaches, is playing with the Texas Stars on a conditioning stint. He was great in his first game, and if he continues to play well, then the Stars will have to make room for him in the lineup.

That also could cause some tough decisions.

"That's up to management," Bowness said with a smile.

The good thing is the Stars have two more games before the midseason break where they will go eight days without a game. Kiviranta will almost certainly be sent back to the AHL for that stretch, and Johns also might get some extra games then. And when the Stars return, they could be forced to make even tougher decisions.

But, as hockey people everywhere will tell you, that's a good problem to have.

 

Stars (27-15-4) vs. Sabres (21-19-7)

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: American Airlines Center

TV/radio: FOX Sports Southwest; The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Buffalo Sabres when they return home to American Airlines Center on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

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 DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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