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Ruff Shuffles Forward Lines, Nichushkin Still Hurting

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stars coach Lindy Ruff rolled out some new forward lines for Monday’s practice in Frisco. Among the moves was Cody Eakin skating on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.

“It’s a possibility. It’s something we want to look at,” Ruff said. “I was really happy with the effort and everything that went into game one. Game two, not so much. With matchups on the road, it might give me some different options. I told those guys it is something I want to look at in practice and we’ll see where we are when we get on the road.”

Ruff has used various players with Seguin and Benn the past two seasons and Eakin, who normally plays center, will bring a different element.

“I think that you can put a shooter there. We’ve had different (guys there]. [Rich Peverley] looked good there at times. Val [Nichushkin] looked good there at times. Erik Cole played good periods of time with them,” Ruff said. “This is a look where we could have Eakin down low against the top lines. [Saturday in Nashville] they were seeing the [Shea] Weber unit and they were seeing [Paul] Gaustad most of the time, it makes it tougher on them. So I’m trying to do my best to help them out too.”

Benn and Seguin are going to be a focus for the opposition and Ruff said the two will have to learn to handle it.

“They get a little more attention than they got in the past and it’s the battle to get through that. It’s the battle to push through,” Ruff said. “I still think in [the Nashville] game, the best opportunities came from those guys. But we need finish too.”

As for the rest of the lines, Vernon Fiddler took Eakin’s spot centering the third line with Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt. Patrick Eaves was back on the second line with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. Shawn Horcoff centered the fourth line with Nichushkin and Cole rotating in as left wing and Colton Sceviour playing the right wing.

Notes: Nichushkin still hurting

*Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin continues to battle through injury issues. Nichushkin sat out the last half of the third period in Saturday night’s game in Nashville. He was unable to make it through a full practice Monday.

“Val is trying to push through,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “It’s a groin, hip flexor, something like that. He struggled with it through camp. I don’t think he has been skating as well. I thought he started off really well today and then felt it and couldn’t skate anymore.”

*The Stars recalled forward Curtis McKenzie from the Texas Stars Sunday morning, and Monday morning McKenzie was sent back down to the AHL. The reason for the call up was some Dallas players were sick or hurting.

“We thought we might need him,” said Ruff. “We had two or three guys – Tyler [Seguin], [Ryan] Garbutt – that were under the weather. We had Val who we were worried about. As it turns out, our worries were probably right.”

Hitting the road

Following Monday’s practice, the Stars hit the road, where they will play at Columbus (Tuesday) and at Pittsburgh (Thursday). The focus right now is on the Blue Jackets, who have opened the season with wins over Buffalo and the New York Rangers.

“I think Columbus has already proven they’re one of the better teams when it comes to hanging onto the puck, one of the better teams defensively,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “They’ve got some real good skill up front.”

“Columbus is a big, fast team and I think they’ve been getting better every year,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “I think they’ve got a really strong team this year. There’s really no easy games this year. They play a good team game at home and we’ve got to come in there and bring our best to beat those guys.”

Stars practice lineup

Here’s how the Stars lined up in Monday’s practice.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinCody Eakin
Patrick EavesJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerRyan Garbutt
Erik Cole/Valeri NichushkinShawn HorcoffColton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiTrevor Daley
Jordie BennBrenden Dillon
Patrik NemethJamie Oleksiak/Kevin Connauton

Kari Lehtonen
Anders Lindback

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 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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