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Wednesday Update: Line Juggling, Goaltending Talk

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars forward lines had a little different look at practice Wednesday morning, and the most noticeable change was that Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn weren’t skating together.

Seguin was centering Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt while Benn was on a line with Cody Eakin and Brett Ritchie. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said splitting up Seguin and Benn at times during a game was under consideration. Not carved in stone, but something he wanted to look at in practice and consider for games.

“I wanted to look at just maybe a little switch, little different scenery for Tyler and Jamie,” Ruff said. “Sometimes for a period maybe, we’ll take a look at it. Sometimes that helps a guy. Sometimes a little bitty change of roommates can get you going the right direction.”

Seguin has one goal in the past ten games. Benn has two goals during that stretch. Both struggled in Tuesday’s 5-4 win over Ottawa. Seguin was battling illness. An undisclosed injury has been slowing Benn.

“I talked to Jamie and he felt a lot better now that he’s practiced again. He felt a couple days off hurt him,” Ruff said. “In Tyler’s case, it was just being sick. Every team is dealing with that, the flu going through teams. You could tell his energy wasn’t the best.”

While Ruff did not reveal the specifics of Benn’s injury, he did indicate that it has been bothering the Stars captain a good part of the season. He also said it had nothing to do with Benn blocking a shot in a game recently.

“Has it been there all year? This is something that’s a little bit chronic, yeah,” Ruff said. “But it has nothing to do with shot blocking. I do (think it’s affected him). I think it has, but it has nothing to do with blocking shots.”

As for the other lines in Wednesday’s practice, there wasn’t anything new. Jason Spezza centered Erik Cole and Ales Hemsky. The fourth line had Vernon Fiddler at center, Shawn Horcoff at left wing and Travis Moen and Colton Sceviour rotating in at right wing.

Fiddler update

Stars center Vernon Fiddler, who missed Tuesday’s game with a lower body injury, could return for Thursday’s game against Winnipeg.

“Better, again practiced. He is definitely a possibility for tomorrow,” Ruff said.

Fiddler suffered the injury during Saturday’s game in Colorado.

Ruff talks goaltending

As usual, Ruff wouldn’t name a starting goaltender for Thursday’s game against Winnipeg. Asked about how much we might see backup Anders Lindback in net over the final three games before the All-Star break, Ruff wasn’t tipping his hand on that either.

“I don’t know yet,” Ruff said. “That’s a good question though.”

But Ruff did talk quite a bit about the team’s goaltending situation following Wednesday’s practice. On Kari Lehtonen, who was pulled 10:30 into Tuesday’s game after allowing two goals on five shots.

“I’m hoping this should help motivate him,” Ruff said. “I met with him this morning. I think he understands that during that stretch of time (Stars 8-1-0 run) he was the guy that got us going. You go back to Vancouver (2-0 win), he was the one who sparked us and got us going in the right direction. Inside that stretch of games we had some good goaltending, good offense and some real good defensive play. This last three or four there’s been an opportunity to make a difference and he hasn’t been able to make that key save and sometimes it isn’t even the big save. It’s just that save we needed at the right time to win the game or preserve at least a point.”

Over his past four starts, Lehtonen is 0-2-1 with a 4.40 goals against average and a .856 save percentage.

As for Lindback, he played his best game of the season for the Stars after taking over for Lehtonen Tuesday night. He stopped 34 of 36 shots, including 29 of 30 over the final two periods.

“What I am encouraged with is that he stepped in and played well,” Ruff said. “Maybe being on the bench for only ten minutes after warm-ups helped, but at the same time he hasn’t played a lot and I liked what I saw when he went in last night.”

Hemsky on a roll

Stars forward Ales Hemsky is on a roll. His goal Tuesday night was his fifth in his last eight games. A nice run for a guy who failed to score a goal in his first 21 games of the campaign and was a healthy scratch three times over a 13-game span earlier in the season.

“I’m more comfortable,” Hemsky said. “I’ve been playing with [Jason] Spezza and [Erik] Cole for a little while and we haven’t changed the lines like we have before. I just built confidence with the guys and the momentum, and I think I’ve shot the puck more than I used to. It’s simple; you build confidence, and you go from there.”

Ruff said Hemsky’s goal Tuesday night – a slap shot from the right circle – showed the benefits of shooting the puck.

“I think he’s bought in to what we’ve been trying to sell, like shooting the puck more,” Ruff said. “I thought that shift started out almost like a disaster the way we kept passing it around the zone. Then it finished with him pounding the puck in the net again. He’s getting rewarded for shooting the puck. It was a great shot, and I want him to keep shooting.”

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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