The winds of change continue to blow through the Stars’ blueline.
Veteran Dan Hamhuis, signed this summer to a two-year, $7.5 million deal, will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season when Dallas takes on St. Louis Monday evening, per the Morning-News.
Stephen Johns, who was sent to the minors last week and quickly recalled, will also be parked in the press box.
“There’s a couple things in play,” head coach Lindy Ruff explained (per the Morning-News’ Mike Heika). “We really feel we’re going to use eight defensemen. The other thing with Johns is if I play him tonight and play him tomorrow, that’s four games in five nights.
“So you pick which games you want to get him in. For [Patrik] Nemeth, he’s a big strong defenseman that we want to get back in the lineup.”
Nemeth hasn’t played since Nov. 21, when he received just under 16 minutes in a OT win over Minnesota.
As for Hamhuis, his demotion comes after receiving a season-low 16:06 in Friday’s 2-1 win over his former team, the Canucks. In that game, he was beaten by Vancouver forward Jason Megna for the only goal surrendered on the night.
Hamhuis, 33, has had a difficult time transitioning to his new team, but has still been a regular lineup presence. He and John Klingberg are tied for the team lead in games played by a defenseman, with 21.
As mentioned above, Ruff has already sat Hamhuis once this season — following a 4-1 loss to the Jets on Oct. 27 — and admitted it was a tough decision to make.
“I went and talked to him, and those aren’t easy conversations. Understandably, you’ve got an upset player,” Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “But it’s a strong message, and it’s a message that needs to be carried — it’s not good enough. I know it’s tough when you come from another team, but right now we’ve got to find less excuses and more reasons to win a game.”
Ruff has spent most of this season juggling defensemen in and out of the lineup. Nine different guys have suited up, including promising rookie Julius Honka, who made his NHL debut last week. Nemeth, Johns, Jamie Oleksiak and Esa Lindell have all platooned in and out, and that will likely continue as the Stars try to find the right mix with veteran Johnny Oduya (lower body) on IR, and out indefinitely.
In other Dallas lineup news, Jason Spezza could end up on the club’s fourth line tonight. But Ruff also suggested he could go back to the lines he used on the Stars’ last road trip… so, maybe not.