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At the Rink: Ducks at Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- The Anaheim Ducks and the Dallas Stars will play Friday for the first time since the Ducks eliminated the Stars in six games in their Western Conference First Round series in April.

The Ducks are a different team than last spring, most notably with the acquisition of center Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks for Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa.

"I don't think we're better than we were last year at the end of the year right now," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said prior to Anaheim's optional morning skate. "I think we've got the capability of being better, but right now I don't think we're better. The only aspect of our game that is probably other than Game One that has been outstanding is goaltending. Everybody else has had peaks and valleys, good games and bad games. The consistency just hasn't been there yet."

Boudreau said he is keeping his line combinations intact from the 2-0 loss at the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. However, he is making one change on his third defense pairing, as Josh Manson, son of longtime NHL player Dave Manson, is set to make his NHL debut; he'll be paired with Sami Vatanen.

Mark Fistric had played alongside Vatanen on Thursday but had to leave the Chicago game with an upper-body injury. Fistric is expected to be out Friday.

"He [Manson] is a mobile, right-handed defenseman that can play physical like his dad, is simple as far as just getting the puck and moving the puck," Boudreau said of Manson. "We got a lot of faith in him. We think he's going to be a good player and we'll see how he goes [Friday]."

Manson said he might not play exactly like his father, but he is going to try to do him proud in his debut.

"I don't know if I'm that aggressive," Manson said. "He played pretty tough, but I'm going to do the best I can to replicate his game because he was pretty successful in his career."

Goalie Frederik Andersen was first off the ice for the Ducks; if he starts Friday it will be his eighth of the season.

Dallas, who added Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza in the offseason, also looks a bit different from their Stanley Cup Playoff series.

However, Stars coach Lindy Ruff isn't worried about any lingering emotions from that back-and-forth series. Instead, he's focused on seeing his team play better in the third period as Dallas has blown third-period leads in three of their first four home games, games the Stars are 0-0-3 in.

"We're in a situation here where we got to get some wins on home ice," Ruff said after the Stars' optional morning skate. "We've given up some overtime losses, got in some penalty trouble in overtime. We need a win. They played [Thursday] and we'd like to get on it early."

Ruff said he is keeping his line combinations and defense pairings intact from a 4-3 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

Goalie Kari Lehtonen was first off the ice for Dallas and will make his eighth start of the season.

Here are the projected lineups:


Matt Beleskey - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Dany Heatley - Ryan Kesler - Devante Smith-Pelly

Andrew Cogliano - Nate Thompson - Jakob Silfverberg

Emerson Etem - Rickard Rakell - Tim Jackman

Cam Fowler - Clayton Stoner

Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin

Josh Manson - Sami Vatanen

Frederik Andersen

John Gibson

Scratched: William Karlsson

Injured: Mark Fistric (upper body), Ben Lovejoy (finger), Patrick Maroon (knee), Kyle Palmieri (ankle), Bryan Allen (lower body)


Jamie Benn - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin

Patrick Eaves - Vernon Fiddler - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Erik Cole - Shawn Horcoff - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Brenden Dillon

Kevin Connauton - Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka

Injured: Sergei Gonchar (ankle), Patrik Nemeth (right arm laceration), Valeri Nichushkin (groin/hip)

Status report: Boudreau said Maroon, who skated Friday, will be a game-time decision. Boudreau said a more likely return date is Sunday at the Colorado Avalanche. … Gonchar likely will miss the next two games, but according to Ruff could return early next week. … Nichushkin will play two games with Texas of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment before returning to Dallas.

Who's hot: Perry enters play Friday tied with the New York Rangers' Rick Nash for the NHL lead with nine goals. … Daley is tied for the League lead in power-play goals with four.

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