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At the Rink: Flyers at Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Defenseman Jason Demers will return Friday from an upper-body injury that cost him three games when the Dallas Stars face the Philadelphia Flyers at American Airlines Center (8:30 p.m. ET; TCN-PH, FS-SW).

"(I) feel good. Don't like missing time, so this has been a tough couple of days. But I am ready to go," said Demers, who last played Dec. 1 at the Calgary Flames.

Demers will return to his customary spot alongside Johnny Oduya, a defensive pair Stars coach Lindy Ruff likes for one reason.

"When we have the two sets of lefties out there, our puck movement isn't as good. It's shown up in all the games where [Demers] hasn't played," Ruff said. "There's a reason teams like having the lefty-righty combination. When you are under that much duress, when you are on your forehand you can still make plays. If you are on your backhand things are tougher."

Dallas is 3-2-1 without Demers this season.

Jordie Benn, who had been filling in for Demers alongside Oduya, returns to the third pair alongside Jyrki Jokipakka, a healthy scratch in the past three games.

With Dallas (21-5-2) on the front end of a back-to-back, also playing at the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, Ruff made the morning skate Friday optional. Approximately 20 players skated and goalie Antti Niemi was first off the ice, making him likely to start his 19th game of the season.

Ruff altered his third and fourth lines following a 6-5 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

Dallas' third line now consists of Antoine Roussel, Cody Eakin and Patrick Sharp. Sharp had played on the left side against Carolina alongside Eakin and Ales Hemsky.

The Stars' fourth line is now Colton Sceviour, Vernon Fiddler and Hemsky. Against the Hurricanes, that line consisted of Roussel, Fiddler and Sceviour at right wing instead of left.

Philadelphia (12-11-6) won 4-2 at St. Louis on Thursday, the Flyers' fourth consecutive road victory. Philadelphia is now 7-6-2 on the road.

Finishing up their own back-to-back, only four players skated Friday: forward Sam Gagner (concussion), who has missed the past eight games, forward Vincent Lecavalier, defenseman Andrew MacDonald and goaltender Steve Mason.

Since Mason was on the ice, he is the presumed starter against Dallas. Michal Neuvirth, who started against St. Louis, has yet to start both ends of a back-to-back this season.

Here are the projected lineups:


Michael RafflClaude GirouxBrayden Schenn

Matt ReadSean CouturierWayne Simmonds

Chris VandeVeldePierre-Edouard BellemareJakub Voracek

R.J. UmbergerScott LaughtonRyan White

Michael Del ZottoRadko Gudas

Nick SchultzEvgeny Medvedev

Brandon ManningShayne Gostisbehere

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Sam Gagner (concussion), Luke Schenn (lower body), Mark Streit (groin)

Scratched: Vincent Lecavalier, Andrew MacDonald


Jamie BennTyler SeguinValeri Nichushkin

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Colton Sceviour - Vernon FiddlerAles Hemsky

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Injured: none

Scratched: Travis Moen, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak

Status report: MacDonald, recalled from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League on Dec. 7, is a likely healthy scratch. … Nemeth and Oleksiak will each be healthy scratches, ending a run for them of three consecutive games as Dallas' third defensive pair.

Who's hot: Simmonds has seven points (four goals) during the Flyers' four-game road winning streak. … Read has points in three of his past four games. … Jamie Benn leads the NHL with 19 goals and is tied for second in the League with 39 points. … Seguin is fourth in the NHL with 24 assists and has 20 points (11 assists) in 15 games against Philadelphia.

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