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Wednesday update: Ruff talks lines; Demers set to return

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Stars coach Lindy Ruff juggled his lines in the second period of last night’s game against Anaheim, and the Stars rallied from a 3-0 deficit to top the Ducks, 4-3. So, it’s no surprise that Ruff rolled out the same lines that worked last night in Wednesday’s practice in Frisco.

And one of the significant moves was to put Cody Eakin on the top line centering Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. That’s the same line Ruff rolled out opening night when the Stars defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-0, at American Airlines Center.

“I think we are 2-0 when Eaks is in the middle playing against top lines. I’ve got to create a different mentality at home. That is my responsibility,” Ruff said. “It’s going to start with our centermen playing a more disciplined game, a less risk game. If I have to take some guys out of the middle and put them on the wings, then I’ll put them there.”

Ruff said the Stars need to be strong at home. They are 3-1-0, but they have had their ups and downs, including a four-period stretch where they were outscored 9-2 between the Florida game on Saturday and the first period of Tuesday’s game against the Ducks.

“We are 3-1 at home, and we’ve got to establish that we are a real tough team to play at home,” Ruff said. “If that means we’ve got to do some adjusting with the lines, I am going to do that.”

So, does that mean different lines at home and on the road? Ruff said he hasn’t thought about that, but he is in favor of line combinations that will work in any building.

“I’d like to see if the lines could win at home and on the road, just keep the lines the same,” he said. “But I didn’t like what I saw in the first period (last night). I told the team today we are two points out of ninth place. We’ve got a great record, but we are two points out of ninth. That means we are going to have to be even better because once we get inside our division and conference, the games are going to get even tougher.”

Demers ready to return

Stars defenseman Jason Demers is set to return to the lineup Thursday against Vancouver after sitting out the last two games due to a suspension.

“I can’t wait. It’s been a long four days,” said Demers, who missed the home games against Florida and Anaheim.

The NHL suspended Demers for elbowing Penguins forward Nick Bonino in last Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh. Demers said the suspension won’t affect the way he plays.

“I won’t give my thoughts about what I thought about the ruling, but it won’t change anything for me,” Demers said. “It was nice to see the boys get a win last night, and it’s nice to come back in after we’ve got a little bit of momentum from that game. It’s going to be fun. There’s going to be a lot of energy, so it’s a good game to hop back into.”

Demers was back in his usual spot in Wednesday’s practice, skating on the right side of the second defense pair with Johnny Oduya. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said the return of the right-handed Demers will be a plus for the Dallas defense.

“That will help us move the puck better,” Ruff said. “We should get a few more shots, a few more plays in the offensive zone coming off that side. We can shoot it or spread the ice a little bit more. I think four or five times a game we’ve been trapped. I think he has played his best hockey so far this year. We missed him back there.”

Injury notes: Eaves, Moen and McKenzie skate

Forwards Patrick Eaves (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body) and Curtis McKenzie all skated before practice in Frisco Wednesday morning. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Eaves appears to be the closest to returning, but it is not expected to happen during this current homestand. McKenzie still has a ways to go.

“McKenzie didn’t make out very good. I wouldn’t expect him on the road trip (next week),” Ruff said. “Eaves is the best of the bunch. From what I heard, he should be able to go (on the trip). Moen is in the 50-50 range of whether he’ll make the trip or stay here. If he stays here, he’ll be close once we get back.”

Wednesday’s practice lineup

Jamie BennCody EakinTyler Seguin

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaPatrick Sharp

Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Mattias JanmarkRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Patrik NemethJamie Oleksiak

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

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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