DALLAS -- When the Dallas Stars host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at American Airlines Center, the Stars not only will look to extend their current winning streak to three games, but also attempt to sweep a three-game homestand.
Dallas is six days removed from a 4-2 loss to Columbus at Nationwide Arena, a game where the Stars didn't start well and found themselves losing 3-0 after one period. Avoiding a repeat of those opening 20 minutes is imperative for Dallas coach Lindy Ruff.
"I thought we were kind of half-in in the game," Ruff said. "We really didn't engage. I thought when we engaged we played pretty well. Fought hard to get back in the game but didn't quite get it done. I thought last couple games here at home we've done a real good of job coming out and playing hard early. Like to build off of that."
The Stars lost starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen to a concussion early in the third period of a 4-3 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday after Wild center Erik Haula went hard into him. Lehtonen is listed as day-to-day.
"I'm not going to go into detail [about his symptoms]," Ruff said. "Just leave it at that and when he starts feeling well he'll start exercising again."
Thomas will make his first start in the crease for Dallas on Monday.
"He's a battler. He's played in pressure situations. He understands what it takes," Ruff said of Thomas. "He's won a couple of Vezinas. He's won a Stanley Cup. I think that bodes well for putting a guy in the net."
Dallas recalled Cristopher Nilstorp from Texas of the American Hockey League on Sunday to serve as Thomas' backup during Lehtonen's injury. Nilstorp was 21-12-4 with two shutouts, a 2.58 goals-against-average and a .915 save percentage in 39 games with Texas this season.
Ruff is leaving his forward lines and defensive pairs identical from the win against the Wild.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards is making several changes to his lineup, with defenseman Nikita Nikitin returning to the ice after missing a 1-0 win against the Nashville Predators on Saturday. Nikitin had to leave a 6-1 loss at the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday in the second period after sustaining a hard hit from Chicago center Andrew Shaw.
Richards also is going with Curtis McElhinney in net against Dallas, which will be his first start since Jan. 28. Columbus is on a back-to-back and will host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, so Richards wanted top goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky fresh for that game.
Like it was when these teams played six days ago, Richards knows the start will be crucial, as will the Blue Jackets' play between the blue lines. However, he's also aware of how potent the Dallas top line of left wing Jamie Benn, center Tyler Seguin and right wing Rich Peverley can be if they are firing on all cylinders.
"I think they [Benn and Seguin] feed off of each other's game and that's what makes them a little bit more dangerous, is they both have speed, skill," Richards said. "We're going to have to do a good job against that line because you can tell that they're playing with a lot of confidence right now."
Here are the projected lineups:
Scratched: Aaron Rome
Injured: Kari Lehtonen (concussion)
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