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Ruff Juggles Lines as Stars Get Ready for Hurricanes

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

It appears Stars coach Lindy Ruff could be adjusting his forward lines as the team tries to get on track at home when it takes on the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at American Airlines Center.

During this morning’s skate at the AAC, Ruff had Cody Eakin centering the top line with Jamie Benn on the left side and Tyler Seguin on the right. Jason Spezza centered the second line with Erik Cole and Ales Hemsky.

Ruff is looking to jump start some of his top offensive players. Benn hasn’t scored a goal in the past 11 games. Hemsky has just two assists in 17 games for the season. Spezza has one goal and three assists over the past nine games.

“Well, for me I’ve got to get our top end going,” Ruff said. “Our 5-on-5 scoring from Segy and Benner and Spezz and Hemsky, we’re going to continue to struggle if I don’t get them on the board, if they’re not a positive influence on the scoresheet for us.”

Ryan Garbutt is expected to miss tonight’s game with an upper body injury. He left this morning’s skate early.

“He’s been nursing a little bit of an upper body injury, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to be able to make it,” Ruff said.

With Garbutt out, Colton Sceviour could be back in after being a healthy scratch the last game or Patrick Eaves could draw back in after missing two games with a lower body injury. Eaves took part in this morning’s skate.

“He’s close to getting ready,” Ruff said. “He hasn’t skated a lot, but was back on the ice and if he doesn’t play tonight, he’ll play on Thursday.”

On defense, Ruff said he is going to put Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley back together as the top pairing.

“I think again we got to find a way to be a little more consistent on both ends of the puck,” Ruff said. “We’re going to go back to putting Goligoski and Daley together tonight at the start here because it was something that was really successful for us. I think now that [John] Klingberg has got some games under him, we’ll juggle those last four and see who comes up to be the three/four for us. I think what we found out is that Klingberg, he can handle the play and that is pretty evident in the games he’s played for us.”

Kari Lehtonen was first off the ice for the Stars, so it appears he will get the start in goal tonight.

Tuesdays’ game kicks off a key five-game homestand for the Stars, who are 1-4-4 at the AAC this season and are 0-4-2 over their last six games at home. The Stars have played well at times at home, but breakdowns have been costly.

“We haven’t quite played complete games,” said Ruff. “We found eight or 10 minutes in the San Jose game to lose it. Overall, we played pretty well against Minnesota and didn’t get rewarded for it, but made a couple mistakes that probably at the end cost us. So now, it’s just finding a way to push through, to not get frustrated. We’ve been around every game. Every game we’ve been leading, tied going into third periods. That’s the area we’ve got to be better.”

“I think we’re getting to the point where it doesn’t matter if we’re playing good games. We have to find a way to win,” Spezza said. “We know we’ve done some things well at times. We just haven’t done it well long enough. And I don’t think we’re too far off, but we have to start finding a way to win games. We can’t be coming in here with moral victories anymore. We have to find a way to win these games and whether they’re ugly or not, there’s no script to how you have to win, just every night you have to try to find a way to win, so that’s what we’re working on now.”

Columbus claims Connauton off waivers; Stars recall Jokipakka

The Columbus Blue Jackets claimed defenseman Kevin Connauton off waivers Tuesday morning. The Stars placed Connauton on waivers Monday. Connauton played eight games for Dallas this season, registering two assists and a plus-four rating.

“We used him as a depth guy. I thought he skated really well as a d-man.,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “At times, he had good spurts of play for us. I think the fact that [John] Klingberg has come in and done what he’s done has again pushed him a little bit to the outside.”

The Stars recalled Jyrki Jokipakka from Texas (AHL) to give them seven defensemen on the roster. He is expected to serve as the seventh defenseman tonight.

Tuesday’s game

Who: Carolina Hurricanes at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars projected lineup

Jamie BennCody EakinTyler Seguin
Erik ColeJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Antoine Roussel
Vernon FiddlerColton Sceviour
Curtis McKenzieShawn HorcoffTravis Moen

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley
Brenden DillonJohn Klingberg
Jordie BennJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen
Anders Lindback

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka

Injured: Ryan Garbutt (upper body), Patrick Eaves (lower body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip/groin), Patrik Nemeth (arm)

Hurricanes projected lineup

Jiri Tlusty – Eric Staal – Elias Lindholm
Nathan Gerbe – Riley Nash – Alexander Semin
Jeff Skinner – Victor Rask – Chris Terry
Pat Dwyer – Jay McClement – Zach Boychuk

Andrej Sekera – Justin Faulk
John-Michael Liles – Tim Gleason
Brett Bellemore – Ron Hainsey

Cam Ward
Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Brad Malone

Injured: Jay Harrison (lower body), Jordan Staal (leg)

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.

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