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At the Rink: Oilers at Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars seek a third straight victory at American Airlines Center on Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Stars (8-9-4), who are 2-1-0 in their longest homestand of the season, beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 on Saturday.

More than anything else, Dallas coach Lindy Ruff wants some consistency from his club, a quality he feels has been lacking.

"It's just been inconsistent. Like I said, I've loved our team, I've hated our team," Ruff said. "I loved them for 38 minutes and then I hated the way we played for the last 22. I loved the way we fought back against Carolina, but I didn't like where we got to before we fought back. So it's been that inconsistency that's hurt our team. It's hurt our play here at home and that's frustrating."

Ruff made one change to his forward lines from Saturday, plugging left wing Ryan Garbutt in on the right side of his fourth line, replacing Curtis McKenzie, who was assigned to Texas of the American Hockey League on Monday.

Garbutt had missed the past three games with an upper-body injury.

Stars right wing Ales Hemsky, who spent his first 10 NHL seasons in Edmonton before being traded to the Ottawa Senators in March prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, will be facing the Oilers for the first time on Tuesday since that trade.

"It will probably be weird, but it's better that we play them first here than in Edmonton. That will probably be worse over there," Hemsky, who has four assists in his past five games, said. "Obviously it will be weird because I've never been in this situation."

Goalie Kari Lehtonen was first off the ice and will start an eighth consecutive game for Dallas.

Edmonton (6-13-2) has lost six straight, including a 7-1 defeat against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, leading Oilers coach Dallas Eakins to make two changes to his lineup.

Left wing Luke Gazdic will make his season debut, likely replacing Jesse Joensuu on the third line.

Gazdic, who spent six seasons in the Dallas organization before Edmonton claimed him off waivers in Sept. 2013, returned from a conditioning assignment with Oklahoma City of the AHL on Nov. 11 but had yet to play a game for the Oilers.

"He's been extremely patient," Eakins said of Gazdic. "He's worked extremely hard and it was time to get him into a game. We hope that he can be physical in a way with driving his legs, finishing his checks and the one thing we really want him to get to tonight is get to the front of the net."

Eakins' other change is on defense where Nikita Nikitin returns alongside Mark Fayne in Edmonton's third pairing. Jeff Schultz moves from the third to the second pair alongside Martin Marincin with Keith Aulie being scratched.

Eakins has also put left wing Taylor Hall, center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and right wing Jordan Eberle together on his top line, a trio Eakins wants something very basic from Tuesday night.

"I think the biggest thing is we need positive energy and I think those guys, our team feeds off that a little bit. We need a lot from our top players and we just think right now that those three being together, they're comfortable with each other. They're excited to play with each other, gives us some positive energy," Eakins said. "Now it does take away from our other lines a little bit, but we're looking for those guys to step up a little bit higher and to be better."

Viktor Fasth was first off the ice for Edmonton and will start a third straight game.

Here are projected lineups:


Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle

Teddy PurcellMark ArcobelloDavid Perron

Luke GazdicLeon DraisaitlNail Yakupov

Matt HendricksBoyd Gordon – Steve Pinizzotto

Andrew FerenceJeff Petry

Martin MarincinJustin Schultz

Nikita NikitinMark Fayne

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Keith Aulie, Jesse Joensuu

Injured: Benoit Pouliot (foot)


Jamie BennCody Eakin - Tyler Seguin

Antoine RousselJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Erik Cole - Shawn HorcoffRyan Garbutt

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg

Trevor DaleyJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Jordie Benn, Colton Sceviour.

Injured: Patrik Nemeth (arm), Valeri Nichushkin (hip/groin).

Status report: Joensuu will be a healthy scratch for the third time in the past four games. … Jordie Benn is a healthy scratch for a third straight game.

Who's hot: Perron has 19 points (12 assists) in 21 career games against Dallas. … Jamie Benn, who has a three-game point streak, was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week on Monday.

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