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At the Rink: Panthers at Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars are 1-3-1 in their past five games at American Airlines Center, and with the Florida Panthers visiting Friday in the second game of a back-to-back, Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he would like to see his team capitalize early.

"For me it [the key] is going to be doing the little things really well and that's getting pucks in deep, making sure that we're playing a 200-foot game, the pucks are getting in below the goal line and getting pucks going to the net," Ruff said. "Maybe we're catching them off guard and they're the team that's taking penalties right off the bat."

Dallas has won two straight, including a 5-3 win at the Boston Bruins on Tuesday to close its Eastern Conference road trip at 2-1-0.

The Panthers lost 2-1 at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, their fourth loss in their past five road games (1-4-0). Despite their recent road struggles, Ruff said he knows the Stars will be in for a tough battle against Florida, which is 12-10-6 on the road.

"They got good size. They work hard. For the most part they've been defending pretty well," Ruff said of the Panthers. "Games I've seen, they've taken advantage of some power-play situations, some odd-numbered rushes. And for us it's staying away from that."

Dallas leading scorer Tyler Seguin will man his customary spot centering the Stars' top line after missing practice Thursday because of the flu.

"It gets better every day," Seguin said. "I'm trying to get energy right now. I haven't been able to do much over the last 48 hours."

Ruff is keeping his top two lines intact from the win against the Bruins but shuffled his third and fourth lines because left wing Antoine Roussel, who normally skates on the third line, is suspended for the next two games for cross checking Boston's Adam McQuaid on Tuesday.

Cody Eakin, who normally centers the third line alongside Roussel and left wing Ryan Garbutt, will move to the right side with center Vernon Fiddler, who had been on the fourth line, moving up.

"Right now I'm just rewarding [Fiddler] for how well he's played," Ruff said. "He's played really well and I'm giving him an opportunity for some added responsibility, some added ice time, which I think he deserves."

On the fourth line Ruff will play left wing Travis Moen, who has missed the past five games with a lower-body injury, on the right side with Shawn Horcoff moving from the left to the middle. Colton Sceviour on the right wing.

Ruff said he is keeping his defensive pairings intact from the Boston game. Goalie Kari Lehtonen was first off the ice at morning skate and will start a third consecutive game for Dallas.

Florida did not have a morning skate, but it appears Panthers coach Gerard Gallant will start backup goaltender Al Montoya since Roberto Luongo started at Minnesota on Thursday.

Here are the projected lineups:

PANTHERS

Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Jimmy Hayes

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Tomas Fleischmann - Dave Bolland - Sean Bergenheim

Shawn Thornton - Derek MacKenzie - Scottie Upshall

Dmitry Kulikov - Erik Gudbranson

Aaron Ekblad - Brian Campbell

Steven Kampfer - Alex Petrovic

Al Montoya

Roberto Luongo

Scratched: Tomas Kopecky

Injured: Willie Mitchell (upper body), Brandon Pirri (upper body)

STARS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves

Erik Cole - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Cody Eakin - Vernon Fiddler - Ryan Garbutt

Travis Moen - Shawn Horcoff - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Jyrki Jokipakka - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Jason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: Curtis McKenzie, David Schlemko

Suspended: Antoine Roussel

Injured: Patrik Nemeth (arm), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)

Status report: If Montoya starts, it will be his first game since Feb. 3 at the New York Islanders. … Schlemko likely will be a healthy scratch for a sixth consecutive game.

Who's hot: Bjugstad scored his 19th goal of the season Thursday at Minnesota, putting him one shy of reaching 20 goals in a season for the first time in his career. … Cole has a goal in two straight games and in three of his past five.

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