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At the Rink: Islanders at Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- With the Dallas Stars mired in a six-game losing streak (0-4-2), coach Lindy Ruff decided to change his game-day routine by having the morning skate at Stars headquarters in Frisco instead of American Airlines Center, where Dallas will host the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Ruff's rationale for the change was simple.

"It's just trying to change it up. Let's change the scenery. It's my job to try to do things that'll make a difference," Ruff said. "I want this team to get better, continue to get better."

Ruff is keeping his forward lines identical from a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. But he could be making a change in his defensive pairs.

Patrik Nemeth, who has missed the past 52 games with an arm laceration, could see his first action since Oct. 18, 2014, against the Philadelphia Flyers. Nemeth could join Trevor Daley on Dallas' second pair.

"Obviously it feels really good (to be back)," Nemeth said. "I didn't even think I was going to be able to play here. To be able to play five games down there (in the American Hockey League) was good, to start playing hockey again. It's just great to be up here."

If Nemeth returns, fellow rookie defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka will be scratched.

Goalie Kari Lehtonen was first off the ice and will start for Dallas for the first time since allowing four goals on 23 shots in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 27.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano is also making some changes, but mainly because New York has two new players in left wing Tyler Kennedy and backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth, acquired prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday.

Kennedy will skate on the right side of the second line alongside left wing Michael Grabner and center Frans Nielsen.

"I know Tyler," Capuano said. "He's an energy guy, plays the right way, does a lot of good things."

Acquiring Kennedy led Capuano to also shuffle his third and fourth lines. The third line will consist of right wing Nikolay Kulemin, center Ryan Strome and left wing Colin McDonald. New York's fourth line will be left wing Matt Martin, center Brock Nelson and right wing Cal Clutterbuck.

Capuano is also making one change to his defensive pairs, plugging Lubomir Visnovsky on his second pair alongside Thomas Hickey. That moves Travis Hamonic, who had been paired with Hickey, to the third pair alongside Calvin de Haan.

Goalie Jaroslav Halak was first off the ice and will start for the Islanders.

Capuano is well aware of the Stars' recent struggles, but they aren't an opponent the Islanders are about to take lightly.

"This is a good team. The one thing I like about this team is they're going to throw a lot of shots on net and we have to make sure that again we protect the good ice," Capuano said. "We know they're going to have 35, 40 (shots) because they do it every game. They're a high-octane team. We just got to make sure that we play high-percentage hockey against that tonight."

Here are the projected lineups:

ISLANDERS

Anders LeeJohn TavaresJosh Bailey

Michael GrabnerFrans NielsenTyler Kennedy

Nikolay KuleminRyan StromeColin McDonald

Matt MartinBrock NelsonCal Clutterbuck

Nick LeddyJohnny Boychuk

Thomas HickeyLubomir Visnovsky

Calvin de HaanTravis Hamonic

Jaroslav Halak

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Matt Donovan, Kael Mouillierat, Brian Strait

Injured: Eric Boulton (lower body), Casey Cizikas (lower body), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Kyle Okposo (eye)

STARS

Jamie BennJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Cody EakinRyan Garbutt

Curtis McKenzieVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Colton SceviourShawn HorcoffBrett Ritchie

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg

Patrik NemethTrevor Daley

Jordie BennJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka

Injured: Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Tyler Seguin (knee)

Status report: Mouillierat is likely a healthy scratch, ending his streak of five consecutive games played. … Nemeth could see his first NHL action since last fall after playing five games for Texas of the AHL on a conditioning assignment.

Who's hot: Tavares has 14 points (eight assists) over his past eight games. Lee has 14 points (nine assists) over his past 12 games. … Benn has 13 points (seven goals) over his past 10 games and 20 points (10 goals, assists) in 17 games since the All-Star break.

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