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Thursday Update: Ruff Juggles Lines; Lehtonen, Hemsky Probable for Friday

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars forward lines had a new look in Thursday’s practice. Stars coach Lindy Ruff split up Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza, hoping to spread the offense around.

Ruff put Benn on a line with Cody Eakin and Brett Ritchie, and he reunited the line of Erik Cole, Spezza and Ales Hemsky.

“We took a look at it today. After you lose a few, it might be an opportunity to spread some of the offense around,” Ruff said. “I think when you have what you think are your best offensive players all on the same line, it makes it a little easier on the other team. I think with Spezza and Benn on different lines, it creates a decision for the opposition. The Cole, Spezza, Hemsky line was a good line for us before Seguin was injured.”

This isn’t the first time that Ruff has put Benn and Eakin on a line together, and he’s liked what those two can bring when paired together.

“I like their zone time. I think we get a little bit better grind when those two guys play together,” Ruff said. “Typically, what they’ve brought is an ability to hem a team in, be on top of the puck, hang onto the puck and create the opportunities from that.”

Here’s how the forwards lined up in Thursday’s practice:

Erik ColeJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Jamie BennCody EakinBrett Ritchie
Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerRyan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzieShawn HorcoffColton Sceviour

Injury notes: Lehtonen and Hemsky probable; Eaves not ready

Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who did not play Tuesday due to an undisclosed “medical issue,” had another good day of practice Thursday. Stars coach Lindy Ruff listed Lehtonen as “probable” for Friday’s game against Colorado.

Forward Ales Hemsky, who did not practice Wednesday due to an injury issue, was on the ice for Thursday’s session, and he appears probable for Friday’s game.

“I thought he had a good day,” Ruff said. “He’s still hampered a little bit but I think he will be a player.”

Forward Patrick Eaves, who has been out since Feb. 13 with a concussion, did not practice Thursday. There was hope Wednesday that he might be ready for Friday’s game, but he is not there yet.

“He’s not a player for tomorrow,” Ruff said. “He was feeling good. He just doesn’t feel he is there yet from a conditioning standpoint. He’s got the baseline testing yet to do and probably a couple full practices. He wants to make sure he is feeling good before he is back in, and we want to make sure he is in the right place too.”

Stars need to get on a roll

The Stars fell to seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference after Wednesday night’s games. The Stars haven’t helped their cause with no wins and just one point in their last four games.

“I think there is some frustration. Trying to battle through that, and that’s part of becoming a better team,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We are going to have to take it one game at a time, start with a win and we’ve got to get ourselves on a roll.”

The Stars have 21 games left, starting with Friday night’s matchup against the Colorado Avalanche at American Airlines Center.

“We’ve just got to win games. We are at that time of the year where we’ve got to find a way to get two points. We are at that desperation time where we need wins,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. “We’re still in it. We still have a ways to go, lots of games left. We get the next one, and then we worry about the one after that.”

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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