Dallas Stars: Lineup vs. Bruins Offers Forwards New Chance To Produce

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 12: Brett Ritchie #25 of the Dallas Stars skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the American Airlines Center on November 12, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 12: Brett Ritchie #25 of the Dallas Stars skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the American Airlines Center on November 12, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Jim Montgomery has yet to shy away from juggling his lines in hope of a turnaround in production. On Friday night, he’ll try yet another setup, and it should benefit a handful of struggling Dallas Stars players.

There always seems to be a need for resurgence for certain Dallas Stars players. That resurgence could be tied to defensive smarts or goaltending consistency, but there always seems to be a lacking player or area.

But, more often than not nowadays, the need for resurgence seems to be tied in with offensive production.

Last season, it was the majority of the Stars’ depth forwards that needed a spark. The production levels of the bottom nine were few and far between, leaving a lot to be desired and therefore, a lot of weight for the top line to carry. The system wasn’t working, the forwards weren’t clicking enough, and the team ended up outside the playoff picture for the second year in a row as a result.

But so far in the 2018-19 season, things are looking up. Jason Spezza and Devin Shore are putting together strong bounce back campaigns, Jason Dickinson has been an impressive surprise, and players like Tyler Pitlick and Radek Faksa are starting to heat up.

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Things are trending in the right direction in terms of offensive production, but there is still work to be done, specifically with a few players.

While players like Spezza and Shore are ramping up their production, players like Brett Ritchie, Mattias Janmark, and Valeri Nichushkin are struggling to find their footing. The list may stretch a little further, but these three in particular are hitting rough patches.

Ritchie has played in 12 of the Stars’ 18 games this season and has one assist and a -1 rating to show for it. Janmark has started in all 18 games, posting one goal, one assist, and a team-worst -8 rating. And for Nichushkin, he has four assists and a +1 rating through 13 games.

For Ritchie, this performance is coming on the heels of a disappointing 2017-18 campaign that followed an impressive 2016-17 showing. For Janmark, it’s a major step down from an almost unbelievable 19-goal, 34-point year in 2017-18 that saw Janmark fresh off of a career-threatening knee injury and surgery. And for Nichushkin, it’s his first year back in the NHL after two seasons in the KHL and is obviously coming with some adjustment time.

This can happen with certain players when trying to develop to new systems. Don’t forget that Shore and Spezza looked terrible under Hitchcock’s scheme last year.

But regardless of the difficulties, it’s the job of those players to find ways to produce and be key pieces in the Dallas Stars offensive push. That starts with effort and consistency in their play on the ice, but can also involve the coaching staff.

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That’s where Jim Montgomery comes in or, rather, where he has come in over the first six weeks of the regular season.

Montgomery is no stranger to juggling his lines in hopes of finding a combination that works. He will shuffle them both in practice and during games, depending on the situation.

And after putting together a stale performance in a 2-1 loss to Columbus on Monday, it was time for another shuffle.

That shuffle brings us to tonight’s lineup as the Stars prepare for to welcome in the Boston Bruins to close out a four-game homestand. Let’s take a look at the lines.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Brett Ritchie

Blake Comeau – Radek Faksa – Tyler Pitlick

Gemel Smith – Jason Dickinson – Valeri Nichushkin

There are a few key differences.

While the first and third lines are the same as they have been, the second and fourth lines have jumbled. Spezza will now center Janmark and Ritchie instead of his typical matchup with Shore and Nichushkin. With Shore out 7-10 days, Smith will now slot into the lineup on the fourth line. That pushes Janmark and Ritchie to the second line while Nichushkin will drop to line four.

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  • This could end up being a good look for the Dallas Stars. With Janmark and Ritchie, they will get an increase in minutes. So far this year, Janmark is skating 1:30 less per game on average than he did last season. Meanwhile, Ritchie is posting the lowest ATOI of his career at 9:34. With the move up to line two, both players should get more shifts and chances.

    In addition to that, the wingers will get a chance to skate with Spezza. As a weathered veteran, Spezza has been through plenty of ups and downs in his career. At the moment, he’s having an impressive up with four goals and 11 points in 18 games. He’s been a reliable force that can be sent over the boards in multiple situations and make his line mates better. If he can find a way to continue that role and contribute to making Janmark and Ritchie more productive and dangerous, the second line could be in for a big night.

    As you shift to line four, Nichushkin will get a chance to play with Dickinson, who is putting together his own resurgence this year. When you combine Smith’s speed with Dickinson’s abilities as a physical center with an offensive touch, Nichushkin might be able to round out the line with his skill set.

    All in all, the Dallas Stars are in search of some offensive production. It’s getting there, but the numbers are still inconsistent. And with the injuries currently harboring the lineup on both offense and defense, scoring pressure will be all the more important going into tonight’s game vs. Boston.

    dark. Next. Take A Breather: Break Gives Stars Time To Adapt

    The puck drops at 7.p.m. from the American Airlines Center. Tune in to see if Monty’s latest creation pays off.